ITeam Report: Fiscal cliff could force Dirksen Federal Building to close on Wednesdays

December 19, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The familiar buzz of people working in the Dirksen Federal Building could go silent one day a week if automatic, across-the-board government budget cuts go into effect on January 2.

"With an 18 percent cutback, which is one of the proposals on the table right now, we do not make salaries, and we would be forced to take many furlough days," said Thomas Bruton, Northern District of Illinois Clerk of the Court.

In a letter obtained by the ITeam, Chief Judge James Holderman lays out a plan for forced shutdowns of federal district court in Chicago and Rockford, claiming if a fiscal cliff agreement isn't reached, the enforcement of the laws and the delivery of justice is in peril.

Budget cuts could force the courts to close on Wednesdays and staff would have to take unpaid days off.

Dozens of responses to Holderman from the legal community:

From the American Bar Association: "The failure to adequately fund our courts also threatens the checks and balances of our constitutional system."

From the Chicago Bar Association: "Justice delayed is justice denied."

"We will exhaust every dollar we have in our budget before we are forced to close our doors. We don't want to delay justice," Bruton said.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Chicago had no comment on the possibility of a federal building shutdown. However, if there was an every-Wednesday furlough, the justice system would probably operate on a weekend and holiday system of judges on-call to handle emergency hearings and search warrants.

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