Federal courts need $36.6 million to address “emergent needs” in combating the coronavirus outbreak, including enhanced courtroom cleaning, health screenings, and teleworking infrastructure, the Administrative Offices of the U.S. Courts, the administrative arm of the judiciary, announced Tuesday.
The judiciary already received $7.5 million in the CARES Act, Congress’s $2 trillion stimulus package passed in March to curb the economic effects of the pandemic. But that money only addressed the courts’ “immediate information technology needs and increased testing and treatment costs in our probation and pretrial services program,” the AO said in an April 28 letter to members of Congress.
After the initial round of funding, the AO identified another $64.1 million needed to address the disease. “However, $27.5 million of those needs can be met through available Judiciary funding balances and projected savings from canceled travel and conferences,” the AO said.
The bulk of the new request is for enhanced cleaning of judicial facilities ($15.1 million), health screening at courthouses ($15 million), infrastructure for increased telework and videoconferencing ($11.2 million), and the Defender Service ($9.4 million), which provides representation for indigent criminal defendants in federal court.
The AO also requested legislative action to address the Covid-19 outbreak.
“The underlying objective behind each proposal is to ensure that the federal Judiciary continues to meet its constitutional mandate while protecting the health and safety of court personnel, litigants, and the public,” the AO said in it’s April 28 letter.
Several of those proposals are aimed at protecting criminal defendants, “such as expediting compassionate release procedures under the First Step Act, reducing unnecessary pretrial detention of certain low-risk defendants, and allowing probation officers to focus on higher risk offenders instead of low-risk compassionate release offenders,” the AO said.
The AO also asked for more authority to extend statutory deadlines in bankruptcy cases.