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U.S. chief justice calls for end to judiciary funding cuts

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is followed by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as they arrive for the presidential inauguratio
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is followed by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as they arrive for the presidential inauguratio

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts asked Congress on Tuesday to ensure the judiciary has sufficient funding in the coming year following recent budget cuts.

In his annual report on behalf of the federal judiciary, Roberts warned of the ongoing impact of the automatic spending cuts that went into affect on March 1, known as the sequester, unless Congress takes action.

The five-percent budget cut reduced the judiciary's funding for fiscal year 2013 to about $6.6 billion, down by $350 million. That led to reductions in the number of court clerks, probation and pretrial services officers and public defenders, Roberts said.

"The future would be bleak" if the cuts were to remain in effect, he added. It would lead to the loss of an estimated 1,000 court employees, Roberts said. That would be because the judiciary would have to cut funding in some areas to counter other inflation-driven cost increases, he added.

Congress restored some of the judiciary's funding in October, which Roberts welcomed. He also praised the recent budget deal passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Dec 26.

The judiciary is now asking Congress for $7.04 billion for fiscal year 2014, which Roberts said would allow the court system to operate effectively in the near future.

"I encourage the president and Congress to be attentive to the needs of the judicial branch and avert the adverse consequences that would result from funding the judiciary below its minimal needs," Roberts said.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Andrew Hay)

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