The US government is currently partially shut down. Will the government shutdown impact federal courts or slow process on new matters filed in federal court?

2 Answers 2


No, federal courts will not be affected if the shutdown is short. According to the U.S. Department of Justice FY 2019 Contingency Plan, the Judicial Branch will continue to be open during the shutdown as they have funds from non-year specific long-term appropriation to last around 3 weeks.

However, should the shutdown exceed 3 weeks, non-urgent civil matters will likely be delayed. (Note the footnote in the quoted block below.)

With respect to litigation, the Department’s plan assumes that the Judicial Branch will continue to operate through the furlough.4 Therefore:

  • Criminal litigation will continue without interruption as an activity essential to the safety of human life and the protection of property.

  • Civil litigation will be curtailed or postponed to the extent that this can be done without compromising to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property. Litigators will continue to approach the courts and request that active cases, except for those in which postponement would compromise to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property, be postponed until funding is available. If a court denies such a request and orders a case to continue, the Government will comply with the court’s order, which would constitute express legal authorization for the activity to continue. The Department will limit its civil litigation staffing to the minimum level needed to comply with the court’s order and to protect life and property. Receipt of summonses, pleadings and motions by mail may be delayed.

4The federal courts are continuing to hear and decide cases during the lapse in appropriations utilizing fees and no- year appropriations. When this source of funding is exhausted, furloughs may impact the number of cases courts will hear.


Update with a press release from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts

According to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, it is estimated that federal courts will sustain funded operations until January 25, 2019.

During the partial shutdown of the federal government, which began Dec. 22, 2018, the Judiciary has continued to operate by using court fee balances and other “no-year” funds. The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO) now estimates that federal courts can sustain funded operations through Jan. 25, 2019.

Due to a lack of resources caused by the government shutdown, some federal courts have postponed civil cases involving the government. Criminal cases are not affected, however.

In response to requests by the Department of Justice, some federal courts have issued orders suspending or postponing civil cases in which the government is a party, and others have declined to do so. Such orders are published on court internet sites. Criminal cases are expected to proceed uninterrupted.

Source: https://www.uscourts.gov/news/2019/01/16/judiciary-continue-funded-operations-until-jan-25

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