Posted: 7:24 pm Monday, March 23rd, 2015
By Jamie Dupree
Monday afternoon brought one of my favorite events of each year, when two Justices from the U.S. Supreme Court walk across the street to the U.S. Capitol, and ask lawmakers for the necessary funds to run the court’s operations for the next fiscal year.
“We’re always very, very careful, very cautious about budgetary expenditures,” Justice Anthony Kennedy told lawmakers on a House spending panel, as he and Justice Stephen Breyer submitted a Supreme Court budget request that is down 1.1 percent from a year ago.
“The budget for the Supreme Court is just a small part of the budget for the courts as a whole,” Kennedy added, as the Justices asked for $88.2 million for its operations.
The Justices did put lawmakers on notice that in the future, the Supreme Court may ask for more money to deal with computer and information technology needs.
“We think this may require an increase in personnel by one or two people,” Kennedy testified. “We’re not sure.”
The explanation elicited smiles all around the room, since members of both parties are used to budget requests for a lot more money, and don’t often exactly set out what is needed.
.@ HouseAppropsGOP Supreme Court keeps costs down. FY 2016 budget plan $1 million less than 2015. Thanks Justices.
— Ander Crenshaw (@AnderCrenshaw) March 23, 2015
“Not only do we not get people requesting less money, we don’t get people that speak clearly and concisely,” panel chairman Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) acknowledged with more than a few chuckles.
“I wish they were all this way,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR) chimed in.
The budget request for next year also includes $18 million for security at the Supreme Court.
“We’re satisfied that we have the right number,” Kennedy told lawmakers.
Kennedy seemed delighted to describe for lawmakers how a recent renovation project at the Supreme Court – first estimated at $170 million – came in at just $120 million.
“We came in under budget and the project has been closed, very successful,” Kennedy added.
The plan replaced all the wiring, the heating and cooling system and more of the infrastructure from the original construction of the Supreme Court back in the early 1930’s.
“We had the air conditioning system from 1938,” Kennedy said. “When it broke, there was a fellow that was retired in West Virginia, we’d send a police car to get him, you know, we better fix this.”
Kennedy also told one story from the recent renovation of the Supreme Court, which involved an error by the company replacing the windows in the building.
No rush for U.S. Supreme Court TV
While both Justices Kennedy and Breyer talked excitedly about ways to connect with the general public through the Supreme Court’s website or in other ways, they once more threw cold water on the idea of televising their proceedings.
“I think cameras in the courtroom are not a good idea,” said Justice Kennedy, who worried that it would skew the performance of judges and lawyers alike.
“We would prefer the dynamic where we have a discussion where we are listening to each other; we think television would detract from that,” said Kennedy.
“That’s the best explanation that’s in my mind,” added Justice Breyer.
Others took to social media to disagree:
— OpenSCOTUS (@OpenSCOTUS) March 23, 2015
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.