Press Releases

New York City Bar Association Statement on the Shutdown

The New York City Bar Association is gravely concerned about the continuing federal government shutdown, which not only is harming federal employees and those who depend on federal programs, but also is adversely impacting the courts and the administration of justice, both in New York and around the country. 

The announcement by the federal judiciary that it has funds to continue operations for barely more than another week, until January 25, raises serious constitutional concerns that must not be ignored. The political branches’ failure to fund the federal courts threatens to undermine the basic operations of the co-equal and independent judicial branch of government. Courts will face fundamental challenges to open their doors if many or all court clerks, pretrial officers, probation officers, courtroom deputies, prosecutors, public defenders and the U.S. Marshals Service are furloughed or forced to work without pay. The threat this would pose to the separation of powers under our Constitution requires urgent attention and redress.

The partial shutdown also is hampering the proper functioning of other pillars of the justice system. Lack of funding for certain administrative agencies or other government components, including the immigration courts, has resulted in thousands of delayed immigration and other hearings, leaving litigants in a state of limbo. Federal Bureau of Prisons personnel are not being paid, which interferes with the ability of people in federal detention facilities to meet with their attorneys, raising significant Sixth Amendment issues, and potentially delays presentments at the initiation of criminal proceedings.

Meanwhile, in addition to not being able to see their attorneys or families, some in federal detention facilities reportedly are experiencing delays in receiving needed medications. And law enforcement agencies across the breadth of the Department of Justice, including FBI agents, have to scramble to obtain funding for active investigations involving serious violent crimes—which, in turn, means crimes go undetected and prosecutions are stymied. In some districts, including the Southern District of New York, virtually all civil cases against government agencies have been stayed. Private litigants also may be impacted by the potential inability to commence lawsuits or pursue temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions, which can cause potential harm to persons or property.

As lawyers we are uniquely situated to observe the harms being wrought on the court system and access to justice, and we urge a speedy resolution to end the shutdown.

About the Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has 24,000 members, is to equip and mobilize the legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world.