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FEDERAL COURTS FORCED TO CUT BACK ON HOURS Budget pinching has prompted federal court clerks’ offices across the country to curtail public hours of operation, with at least one Mississippi clerk’s office shuttered to save money, according to a survey by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. While Congress mandates annual wage increases to court staff, the pay hikes have not been funded, forcing courts to take money from operations in other areas or reduce staff numbers through layoffs, attrition and retirement. At least 36 district and bankruptcy courts have curtailed office hours in 76 locations nationwide in the last two years, according to the survey. Some have closed branch offices while they figure out ways to cope with fewer staff members, according to Richard Carelli, a spokesman for the administrative office. Most cut back 30 minutes to an hour at the beginning and end of each day. In the Northern District of Texas, court clerk Karen Mitchell said that the staff works from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., but the office is only open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Shorter hours “enables us to get work done without interruption,” she said. The district cut nine positions during the last fiscal year but still has to keep up with docketing and providing courtroom staff. Victoria Minor, chief deputy clerk in New Haven, Conn., said the time involved for quality control for electronic document filing by lawyers is “beyond belief.” She lost three people through attrition yet still has to support 18 judges on the court. � The National Law Journal

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