Federal Judge Tells Congress to 'Go to Hell' Over Shutdown

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Monday, 14 Oct 2013 11:41 AM

By Audrey Hudson

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A federal judge fed up with the government shutdown says Congress can "go to hell," and is urging his colleagues to declare all court employees essential workers to keep the struggling judicial system operating.

"It is time to tell Congress to go to hell. It's the right thing to do," Senior Judge Richard Kopf of the U.S. District Court in Nebraska wrote on his blog.

Such an order would drive Congress "bat****" and force a showdown between the two branches of government to resolve the crisis, said Kopf, who was appointed to the bench by former President George H.W. Bush.

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"There is a strong argument for such a declaration," Kopf wrote. "Best of all, such an order would set up an inter-branch dispute worth having."

Exasperation between the judicial and legislative branches is seeping into court orders as the shutdown moves into its third week, Politico reports.

For example, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson in Washington, D.C., rejected a plea by House Republicans to ignore the shutdown and proceed with a case against Attorney General Eric Holder for his refusal to turn over some information on the Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation to Congress.

"While the vast majority of litigants who now must endure a delay in the progress of their matters do so due to circumstances beyond their control, that cannot be said of the House of Representatives, which has played a role in the shutdown that prompted the stay motion," Jackson wrote.

Chief Judge Richard Roberts, who also sits on the federal bench in the District of Columbia, told Politico that sequestration cuts coupled with the recent shutdown have financially crippled the system.

"Court budgets have essentially been slashed to the bone, with us losing, nationwide, thousands of judicial employees performing very important tasks . . . We're being told to furlough where we're already cut to the bone," Roberts said.

Under sequestration, $350 million was cut from the judiciary's budget overall, costing nearly 2,700 jobs, a 20 percent reduction for drug testing and electronic monitoring. The sequestration cuts were already being blamed for numerous delays in criminal and civil cases. In addition, federal attorneys who defend the government in cases have to take 15-day unpaid furloughs this year to sequestration caps.

Judge Julia Gibbons of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, who heads the judiciary's budget committee, did not endorse the language Kopf used to express his anger, but she did validate his argument that things are a mess in Washington.

"Judges generally try not to use intemperate language, but certainly, we are very, very, very concerned about the judiciary's future," Gibbons said.

"There is a grave, grave concern and, yes, people are really, really, really worried," Gibbons added.

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