The U.S. Department of Justice would curtail or postpone civil litigation during a government shutdown and would furlough 17,742 employees, or about 15 percent of its workforce, starting today, according to a contingency plan.

While many Justice Department positions would be excepted from furloughs during a government shutdown, the legal activities divisions would be among the hardest hit by furloughs.

The Civil Division would have 71 percent of its 1,310 employees on furlough if Congress and the White House have not agreed on a way to continue funding the government.

Also among the Justice Department divisions with the highest percentage of employees furloughed: the Antitrust Division would have 63 percent of its 619 employees on furlough, the Civil Rights Division would furlough 71 percent of its 634 employees, and the Executive Office for Immigration Review would lose work from 70 percent of its 1,339 employees.

The fiscal year 2014 contingency plan also advises the Justice Department’s civil litigators to ask the courts to postpone active cases until funding is available, except when a delay would risk the safety of a human life or protection of property.

If a judge denied the request, the Justice Department would view that as legal authorization for the case and limit the civil litigation staffing to the minimum level needed to comply with the court’s order, according to the plan.

The Justice Department would also cancel training for new, non-emergency employees and all in-service training of all current employees.

Otherwise, the agency has a relatively high percentage of employees excepted from a government shutdown because a significant portion of its mission involves the protection of human life and property, and others are funded with multiyear appropriations.

There are currently 114,486 employees, and 96,744 would be excepted from furlough under the Antideficiency Act, which guides government agencies during a potential shutdown, the department guidance states.

The federal prison system would keep almost all of its employees, while the Criminal Division would have 27 percent of its 955 employees, and the U.S. attorneys would lose 37 percent of its workforce and 11,382 employees, the plan states.

The federal judiciary, regulators and Washington courts are all planning for government shutdowns.

Todd Ruger is a reporter for The National Law Journal, a Legal affiliate based in New York. This article first appeared in The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times. •