Courts and Law Firms Impacted by Federal Shutdown

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By George Khoury, Esq. on January 15, 2019 3:00 PM

Across the country, the federal shutdown continues to cause havoc both politically and in many individuals' everyday lives. Many government attorneys know this first hand as many have stopped receiving pay.

Not only are workers going unpaid, and federal services facing stoppages, but the public is clearly not in support of the shutdown. And for federal courts and law firms that maintain federal practices, it isn't exactly business as usual. Courts have been asked to scale back to focus on completing the "mission critical" work, which likely includes ensuring the federal criminal docket continues unimpeded.

Federal Practitioners Stalled

For many attorneys that handle civil or business matters with federal agencies, like the SEC, things are on hold for the time being. Apparently, "no one is available at the SEC." And while most attorneys can continue to work their cases and accrue billable hours, those opportunities become more limited as cases slow down.

The federal court's cost cutting plan wasn't meant to hold things off for much longer, and further delays or reductions will likely lead to an additional few months of backlog (as if the courts weren't backlogged enough already). In immigration matters, cases are getting pushed out years. Fortunately, with electronic filing, and the modernization of the federal court's IT systems, it seems that the likely end-result of the shutdown will simply be an even-more crowded court docket.

Notably though, and lucky for some patent practitioners, the USPTO has yet to be impacted due to its funding from prior years' fees.

What's Going on With the Shutdown

If you haven't been following the news, then you probably still know the basics. This government shutdown really is about President Trump's border wall, and it being used to prevent the necessary legislation from passing for federal workers to be paid. Currently, Congress does not agree on what to do, and as such, many federal employees are forced to bear the burden via furlough or worse, being forced to work for no pay. Sadly, this shutdown has been noted as the longest in history.

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