Lansing — The federal courts in Detroit plan to remain open after their funding dries up Monday in the event Congress does not resolve the partial federal government shutdown by then.
The chief judges of the U.S. district and bankruptcy courts in the Eastern District of Michigan issued administrative orders Thursday that all court employees are deemed essential and should continue to report to work on Tuesday — but without pay.
Pending court matters, including Detroit’s bankruptcy case, will continue to proceed in the absence of 2014 fiscal year funding from Congress, the judges said.
When the shutdown began Oct. 1, the nation’s federal court system had 10 business days of funds to maintain normal operations.
Under the court’s government shutdown procedure, all essential employees, including judges, will work without pay, but may be repaid sometime after the shutdown ends.
Chief Bankruptcy Judge Phillip Shefferly said his court has already experienced a “substantial” 28 percent reduction in staff over the past two years.
“Further exacerbating the workload of this reduced workforce is the largest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in our country’s history, filed in this court by the City of Detroit on July 18,” Shefferly wrote in his administrative order. “The court does not have employees who are not necessary to the performance of its essential employees.”
Shefferly said all court employees “must report for duty during the lapse of appropriations until further notice.”
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen also ordered employees in his court to “report to work for regularly scheduled hours and to continue all normal operations of the court.”
Rosen said the court’s 363 employees should avoid traveling. The chief judge also ordered a court hiring freeze and halted routine spending unless approved by him or the court administrator during the remainder of the government shutdown.
The judges issued their orders on the morning the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in downtown Detroit was packed with attorneys, journalists and onlookers for the sentencing of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Rosen, who is serving as chief mediator in Detroit’s bankruptcy case, said the court system must remain open because the dispensing of justice is “mandated by the Constitution and essential to any government of free people...”