The federal courts are running out of money as the partial government shutdown continues with no end in sight, raising concerns that the legal system will be significantly hobbled if the standoff is not resolved soon.
Judges and court officials around the country are bracing for the likelihood that the federal judiciary will be unable to maintain its current operations within the next two weeks, once it exhausts the money it has been relying on since the shutdown began last month.
Already, courts have been cutting down on expenses like travel and new hiring. Court-appointed private lawyers who represent indigent defendants have been working without pay since late December, according to the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, which provides support for the court system.
There have been other disruptions. The Justice Department is among the executive branch agencies whose funding has lapsed, and at the department’s request, some federal courts have issued orders postponing civil cases in which the Justice Department is a party while the shutdown continues, according to the administrative office.