U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

For the second year in a row, U.S. Supreme Court justices have met with members of the House of Representatives behind closed doors to discuss the court’s annual budget request, which includes a request for a small funding increase.

Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg confirmed that Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer met on March 22 at the court with Rep. Tom Graves, R-Georgia, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on financial services and general government, and Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Illinois, ranking minority party member. The subcommittee oversees the high court’s budget.

Asked why no public hearing had been scheduled, committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said in an email, “Our hearing season is not yet over,” perhaps suggesting that a Supreme Court hearing might yet be scheduled.

But that appears unlikely given that the private meeting already occurred. In addition, the subcommittee on May 17 held a public hearing for the budget request of the rest of the federal judiciary, which in past years has taken place in tandem with the Supreme Court’s hearing.

Last year a prior spokeswoman for the committee said the court’s budget hearing did not take place because of “a compressed Supreme Court and congressional schedule.”

In most years before 2016, the subcommittee held open hearings on the Supreme Court budget and heard testimony from Kennedy and Breyer not only about the budget request, but other issues of interest to members of Congress, including the justice’s tweeting practices, the reasons for justices’ recusals, and the dearth of minority law clerks at the court. The hearings provided a rare and unscripted opportunity to see justices respond to questions from members of Congress.

The court is asking for an appropriation of nearly $96.9 million in 2018, a $2.7 million increase over 2017. The 2017 budget was also nearly $5 million more than the previous year’s.

Part of the increase results from a federal salary increase averaging 1.6 percent beginning in January 2018. Currently, the chief justice’s salary is $263,300 and associate justices are paid $251,800. The budget request also includes funding for “court-wide technology and automation upgrades” totaling $1.5 million. 

Contact Tony Mauro at tmauro@alm.com. On Twitter: @Tonymauro.

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