June 21, 2018
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Federal court has enough money to stay open to Oct. 17, says judge

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The U.S. District Court in Maine will remain open for business during the government shutdown, but employees may have to wait until the budget deadlock in Congress is over to get paid if it continues after Thursday, Chief Judge John Woodcock announced Friday.

The court, with locations in Portland and Bangor, will be closed Monday for Columbus Day but reopen Tuesday as the government shutdown enters its third week. The court system has found enough money to pay employees through Thursday, Oct. 17, the judge said in a post on the court’s website.

Woodcock said earlier this month that the court had enough money to operate and pay employees through Tuesday, Oct. 15.

“When no funding mechanism was in place on Oct. 1, the judiciary projected that fee income and no-year appropriated funds would enable court operations to continue for 10 business days,” the judge said in the website post. “During that period, the judiciary severely restricted spending so that limited additional funding now exists.”

Woodcock also said that spending rates and fund balances would “continue to be monitored closely in hope that adequate funds may be available to allow courts to operate through the end of the work week.”

If the court system is unable to fund normal operations after Thursday, it would implement shutdown procedures and furloughs, but maintain sufficient staffing to continue to hold hearings, conferences and trials, Woodcock said. Employees required to work without salaries would receive back pay after the shutdown ends, as will other federal employees required to stay on the job.

“The court must and will remain open for business,” Woodcock said. “However, it is important for the public to understand that the court will remain open because of sacrifices from all court employees, those performing the essential tasks of court operations without pay and those furloughed from their regular jobs and not working also without pay.”

Over the next month, four criminal cases are scheduled to be tried in Portland, and one is scheduled in Bangor. A civil jury trial is set to begin in Portland on Nov. 7. So far, no trials have been postponed due to the shutdown.

A few civil cases, including appeals of denials of Social Security disability benefits, have been postponed for 30 days or until the shutdown ends. Filing deadlines in other civil litigation that government attorneys are involved in have been extended.

U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II said Friday that 25 to 30 percent of his staff has been furloughed at any one time since the shutdown began. Staff members deemed essential, including attorneys who handle criminal cases, have been working without a paycheck and will continue to do so, he said.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that employees required to work without salaries and furloughed workers would receive back pay after the shutdown ends. Congress has yet to approve back pay for workers furloughed by the government shutdown.

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