A two-year freeze on federal courthouse construction has done more than leave judges at 42 aging courthouses around the country out in the cold for a couple of years.
The September construction moratorium initiated a re-examination of some of the most sacred cows held by the nation's judicial Brahmins.
To stave off the ever-worsening annual budget squeeze, a committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the court's policy-making arm, may propose smaller courtrooms and judicial chambers to save money. Even sharing courtrooms is on the table.
In addition, the committee will examine downsizing clerks' offices and court libraries in the age of electronic filing. And senior judges have not been spared. The length of time that senior judges may keep their own courtrooms, which is now set at 10 years, could be curtailed.
"We are taking a hard look to see if we really do need to bring so many construction projects on line given how much we are paying in rent," said Judge Jane Roth of the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Wilmington, Del., who is leader of the Security and Facilities Committee.