Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is urging Obama and Congress to fill judicial vacancies.(Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)
WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court can't solve the "fiscal cliff," but
Chief Justice John Roberts says the federal courts are scrimping as best
they can and must be restored to full strength.
In his annual
report on the federal judiciary, Roberts notes the need for President
Obama and Congress to put the nation's fiscal house in order while
sparing his third branch of government, whose $7 billion allowance
represents just 0.2% of the $3.7 trillion federal budget.
in his plea is a request for the president and lawmakers to fill
judicial vacancies that have handicapped district and appellate courts
for years. While Senate Republicans recently allowed the confirmation of
a number of district court judges whose nominations they had blocked,
27 vacancies remain that are classified as "judicial emergencies."
urge the executive and legislative branches to act diligently in
nominating and confirming highly qualified candidates to fill those
vacancies," Roberts said.
The report doesn't take sides in the
dispute over judicial vacancies or the fiscal cliff now consuming Obama
and congressional leaders. Still, Roberts could not resist labeling the
$16.3 trillion national debt "truly extravagant."
seriously doubts that the country's fiscal ledger has gone awry," he
said. "The public properly looks to its elected officials to craft a
solution. We in the judiciary stand outside the political arena, but we
can continue to do our part to address the financial challenges within
For most of the past decade, the judiciary has sought
to save money in personnel, rent and information technology, Roberts
said. He noted that the Supreme Court itself has reduced spending in
most recent years and will seek less than $75 million for fiscal year
2014, which begins in October. That is less than it spent in the
previous three years.
But unlike the other two branches of
government, Roberts said the judiciary can't eliminate programs or
services because they are required under the Constitution or federal
"I therefore encourage the president and Congress to be
especially attentive to the needs of the judicial branch and provide the
resources necessary for its operations," he said. "Those vital resource
needs include the appointment of an adequate number of judges to keep
current on pending cases."