The Chief Justice’s 2012 Year-End Report

December 31st, 2012

The Chief’s year end message about the state of the judiciary is here. His prose is amazing! If this Supreme Court thing doesn’t work out, the Chief should turn to writing fiction (no, his NFIB saving construction doesn’t count!).

Make sure to tip your waitresses. I digress.

The report enters the fray of politics, albeit slightly.

Two hundred years after the War of 1812, our country faces new challenges, including the much publicized “fiscal cliff” and the longer term problem of a truly extravagant and burgeoning national debt. No one seriously doubts that the country’s fiscal ledger has gone awry. The public properly looks to its elected officials to craft a solution. We in the Judiciary stand outside the political arena, but we can continue to do our part to address the financial challenges within our sphere.

Roberts also talks about how little money the courts receive–but doesn’t mention the bounty that is PACER.

Yes, for each citizen’s tax dollar, only two-tenths of one penny go toward funding the entire third branch of government! Those fractions of a penny are what the courts need to keep court facilities open, pay judges and staff, manage the criminal justice system (including pre-trial, defender, and probation services), process civil disputes ranging from complex patent cases to individual discrimination suits, and maintain a national bankruptcy court system. Those fractions of a penny are what Americans pay for a Judiciary that is second to none.

But there is a huge constraint on cutting the budgets of the courts–The Constitution!

Virtually all of the Judiciary’s core functions are constitutionally and statutorily required. Unlike executive branch agencies, the courts do not have discretionary programs they can eliminate or projects they can postpone. The courts must resolve all criminal and civil cases that fall within their jurisdiction, often under tight time constraints. A significant and prolonged shortfall in judicial funding would inevitably result in the delay or denial of justice for the people the courts serve.

The President and Congress totally owe the Chief a solid. After all, this Umpire called the ACA safe at the plate. They should help out here.

I therefore encourage the President and Congress to be especially attentive to the needs of the Judicial Branch and provide the resources necessary for its operations. Those vital resource needs include the appointment of an adequate number of judges to keep current on pending cases. At the close of 2012, twenty-seven of the existing judicial vacancies are designated as presenting judicial emergencies. I urge the Executive and Legislative Branches to act diligently in nominating and confirming highly qualified candidates to fill those vacancies.

And, in conclusion, Constitution.

I am privileged and honored to be in a position to thank all of the judges and court staff throughout the land for their continued hard work and dedication. In a certain sense they share the heritage of those sailors who stood on the decks of Old Ironsides. But they also share a vantage that was not yet within the sailors’ sight. Throughout its history, our Nation has withstood daunting tests and always emerged strong, secure, and optimistic. We can all look forward with confidence, beyond the pitch of dark waters, to more promising horizons. We know from experience that our durable Constitution provides the framework needed for able hands to overcome any obstacle, consistent with the rule of law.

H/T Derek Muller