Citing “crucial infrastructure needs for courthouse security, courthouse construction, and information technology,” the Judiciary is asking Congress for $1.54 billion as part of any infrastructure bill enacted by the legislative branch.
In a July 12 letter (pdf) to leaders of the budget committees, the Judiciary spelled out crucial infrastructure needs faced by the courts and asked that they be addressed as part of legislative negotiations under way between Congress and the White House.
“In the event the budget reconciliation process is utilized to pass an infrastructure bill,” the letter said, “we ask that reconciliation instructions for the appropriate authorizing committees be included in the budget resolution to ensure that the Judicial Branch’s infrastructure needs can be addressed.”
The letter was signed by Judge Roslynn R. Mauskopf, secretary of the Judicial Conference of the United States, and Judge John W. Lungstrum, chair of the Conference’s Budget Committee.
Judicial and Courthouse Security
A $389.5 million request for judicial and courthouse security is especially urgent, in light of the fatal shooting a year ago of the 20-year-old son of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas at their New Jersey home, and damage to more than 50 courthouses during public disturbances in 2020.
“The threat to federal courts is getting worse,” Mauskopf and Lungstrum wrote. “A comprehensive approach is required to effectively address the growing violence and threats facing the Judiciary.”
The Judiciary is seeking $112.5 million to harden courthouses to withstand a hostile attack and $10 million to proactively manage security vulnerabilities at all levels of the federal court system. An appropriation of $267 million for the Federal Protective Service would be spent to upgrade aging exterior perimeter security cameras at federal courthouses and other court facilities.
The House on May 20 approved H.R. 3237, the Emergency Security Supplemental to Respond to January 6th Appropriations Act, 2021. The Senate has not acted on that bill, which includes the requested funding for hardening courthouses and managing security vulnerabilities, and $35 million to replace exterior cameras.
New Courthouse Construction
The Judiciary requested $634.3 million in new courthouse construction funding, to be appropriated to the General Services Administration, which builds and maintains federal buildings. The request includes:
- $262.2 million to build a courthouse in San Juan, Puerto. The Conference has designated the project as a space emergency and also the Judiciary’s top space priority. Significant earthquake risks have been identified in the existing courthouse complex, in addition to building, space, and security deficiencies.
- $294.1 million to provide the remaining funding needed for new courthouse projects in Hartford, Connecticut, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Partial funding for these projects was provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
- $78 million to address security deficiencies at federal courthouses in Augusta, Georgia; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Burlington, Vermont; and Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Cybersecurity and IT Modernization Infrastructure
The federal court system needs $515 million to address a combination of sharp increases in the number of cyberattacks on Judiciary IT systems, aging legacy applications critical to court operations, and funding shortfalls leading to IT vulnerabilities. Specific requests include:
- $149 million for cybersecurity improvements to respond to increasing threats and attacks against IT systems. The requested funding would expand the Judiciary’s IT Security Operations Center; expand and upgrade multi-factor authentication and identity confirmation technology; strengthen “end point” security to ensure that only authorized devices can access Judiciary IT systems; and integrate IT security at every phase of software development, testing, and implementation, using a process known as DevSecOps.
- $212 million for a range of IT initiatives related to application modernization. This includes replacement of the aging Probation and Pretrial Services Case Tracking System (PACTS) used to supervise defendants awaiting trial and individuals released from prison. Money also is needed to update the Jury Management System and a new eVoucher system used to pay 14,000 private attorneys appointed by federal courts to represent defendants.
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