The Washington Post

Chief Justice John Roberts stresses frugality in year-end report

The Supreme Court finished its most closely examined term in years last June when it narrowly upheld the Affordable Care Act. On the horizon are potentially landmark decisions on affirmative action and same-sex marriage.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. mentioned none of that in his annual year-end Report on the Federal Judiciary, issued Monday.

He stressed frugality rather than controversy in his eighth report as chief justice, saying the federal courts already are doing their part in holding the line on spending.

“No one seriously doubts that the country’s fiscal ledger has gone awry,” Roberts wrote in a report issued as President Obama and congressional leaders continued to work toward a deal on taxes and spending.

“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 our sphere.”

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP)

But Roberts said the Supreme Court, all other federal courts, the Federal Judicial Center and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts together consume a “minuscule” portion of the federal budget: $6.97 billion of a $3.7 trillion allocation.

“Yes, for each citizen’s tax dollar, only two-tenths of one penny go toward funding the entire third branch of government!” Roberts wrote. “Those fractions of a penny are what Americans pay for a judiciary that is second to none.”

Some Senate leaders have expressed concern that the judiciary has not developed contingency plans for cuts should congressional leaders not reach an agreement on the “fiscal cliff.”

But Roberts noted that, unlike executive departments, the courts “do not have discretionary programs they can eliminate or projects they can postpone. The courts must resolve all criminal and civil cases that fall within their jurisdiction, often under tight time constraints.”

He repeated his call for the political branches to solve a stalemate that will mean more vacancies on the federal bench at the end of Obama’s first term than there were when he took office in 2009. He did not choose sides in a debate about whether the fault lies with the president’s pace of nominations or Senate Republicans stalling even noncontroversial nominations.

“At the close of 2012, 27 of the existing judicial vacancies are designated as presenting judicial emergencies,” Roberts wrote. “I urge the executive and legislative branches to act diligently in nominating and confirming highly qualified candidates to fill those vacancies.”

Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Democrats debated Thursday night. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Chris Cillizza on the Democratic debate...
On Clinton: She poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast him as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.

On Sanders: If the challenge was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal. But he did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past.
The PBS debate in 3 minutes
Quoted
We are in vigorous agreement here.
Hillary Clinton, during the PBS Democratic debate, a night in which she and Sanders shared many of the same positions on issues
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 18%
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read

politics

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.