In a speech shortly before the shutdown of the Federal government due to the budget impasse, Attorney General Eric Holder predicted a “disruptive impact” for the Department of Justice and its workers, noting that “good, hard-working Americans…are going to suffer because of this dysfunction.”
Earlier this year the ongoing budget crisis at the nation’s capitol caused Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey to decry the impact of sequestration on the training of new FBI agents. However, even now that the federal government is under shutdown, not all DOJ employees are impacted by the furlough, since the functions of many of the DOJ’s workers are considered essential. Under the DOJ’s published contingency plan a total of 96,300 employees under the following categories are expected to continue to report to work:
Those whose salaries and activities are funded by a source not impacted by the shutdown (6,428 employees).
Those who have express authority to continue working during an appropriations lapse (864 employees).
Those for which express authority is implied (14,737 employees).
Those who are connected to the President’s constitutional duties and powers (estimate not available).
Those who perform services “related to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property” (74,271 employees).
The contingency plan only covers the five day period following the funding hiatus, so if the government shutdown continues further cuts may be required.
Although the essential nature of the DOJ’s responsibilities even in a shutdown means that criminal litigation is not expected to be impacted by the budget interruptions, civil litigation will be curtailed unless a curtailment in a given case would pose a risk to “the safety of human life or the protection of property,” as outlined in the Department’s contingency plan. A court may deny a request for curtailment, however, and the DOJ has pledged to comply as such a court action would provide express legal authorization for the activity.
Furthermore, training of all non-emergency personnel is expected to halt for the duration of the shutdown. This includes in-service training for current employees, even if those employees are considered exempt from furlough due to the nature of their responsibilities. This also includes interdepartmental training of state and local officers, which will not be resumed until appropriations are continued. Even international officer training is expected to be significantly curtailed, except such training as occurs overseas and is essential to life and safety.
Holder pledged to take a salary reduction equal to the highest reduction of any furloughed employee of the DOJ during the shutdown. Holder’s salary is not impacted by the furlough because his position is by Presidential Appointment. Though many DOJ employees who are furloughed may be glad of the short vacation, it is sure that many will appreciate Holder’s show of solidarity – especially if the shutdown lasts beyond the five days anticipated in the DOJ’s contingency plan.