Kopf richly deserves the snark, but don’t hurt the innocent in the process

Over at SL&P numerous commentators snarked about the supplemental appropriation request that has been submitted to Congress by the judiciary.  Sentencing Law and Policy, May 15, 2013, US Judicial Conference seeks emergency funding due to “an unprecedented financial crisis that could seriously compromise [its] Constitutional mission”

While there was grudging acknowledgment that the judiciary had budget problems, there was near universal agreement that federal judges are pompous asses, who spend huge sums of money on themselves, and they don’t deserve a dime.  The vitriol directed at federal judges was very revealing.

Take this comment, for example, by a really smart and very experienced lawyer:

I would give the money to the PD’s, who are underpaid to start with, but not to the courts. Judges are already more akin to royalty than almost any other sort of government employee. They should learn the wisdom my father taught me: “Don’t have the money? Then do without.”

 If they think this makes their lives too hard, they can resign. Replacements won’t be hard to come by. I know from having worked in White House Counsel’s Office that dozens if not hundreds of qualified lawyers would happily kill their grandmothers to get appointed to the federal bench.

Or take this follow-on comment:

As to the flushness of the judiciary: I invite you to go into any federal judge’s chambers (there’s a reason they’re called “chambers” not “offices”) and draw your own conclusions.

“Rather, it appears from the letter, it’s mostly going to FPD and probation.”

Sure, that’s what they say now.  But even if it turns out to be true, I know from considerable experience (what’s yours?) that agency “emergency” requests are, more often than not, crying wolf. To the extent there may be genuine hardship, however, that’s unfortunate, but everyday people have to learn to do with less than the ideal, and it is time for the government — judicial branch included — to learn that same unpleasant lesson.

I more than willing to plead guilty.  I am among the most arrogant of the bunch.  Indeed, I was pissed off when I lost my Article III toilet.  However, the supplemental appropriation is not intended for federal judges.  Rather, it is intended to:

*  avoid really hurting folks like my CRD or a docket clerk or a pretrial service officer or probation officer;

* avoid hurting panel attorneys by delaying payments to them (remember their fee requests are often slashed with a dull knife anyway);

* avoid further decimating the ranks of the FPDs.

I have been around here for 25 years.  I have never seen anything like the devastation that the federal judiciary is facing.  Since the account for employee salaries makes up a huge proportion of the federal judiciary’s budget, there is almost nothing that can be done to further reduce the judiciary’s operating budget.*  Please believe me, I know a lot about budgetary matters, and I am not crying wolf.

The judges will be fine, no matter what.  The rest of the judiciary, however, is at peril. Real human beings who have done nothing wrong are caught in the cross hairs of a fight they did not pick and cannot do anything to resolve.

Snark all you want about a judge like me.  I richly deserve all that you throw at me (and probably more).  But, for God’s sake, don’t give comfort to the troglodytes in Congress who see hurting federal judicial employees as something to savor.


*Remember that the total budget for the judiciary is less than 1% of the federal budget.  Because it is so small, and because the great bulk of its operational expenses is for employee payroll, sequestration has an unusually devastating impact on the judiciary.

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