US Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan testified in front of the House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government of the House Committee on Appropriations on Thursday regarding the court’s budget for 2020.
In Alito’s opening statement to the House, he said the that the request would come in two parts. The first part consists of salaries and other expenses of the court and the second deals with maintenance of the building and the grounds of the Court.
Alito said that the court’s budget is small compared to the judiciary as a whole, only comprising about 1 percent of federal judiciary budget. Alito thanked the House for supplying funding for security programs and other past funding. He emphasized that the court is not asking for any funding for new programs and only funding to continue its current activity. The 2020 request is for $90 million, which is $3 million higher than what the court was provided in 2019.
Alito justified the request by saying that this increase is expected in part due to a change in the contribution scheme of the Federal Employees Retirement System. He also offered that the court has not requested to create new employee positions over the past 10 years and has used existing personnel to address the court’s increasing amount of work.
Alito said that the court has saved the taxpayers $2 million by maintaining the court’s electronic filing system. $1.5 million of the request would go towards IT system upgrades. He also discussed how the Supreme Court building is a popular visiting site for tourists and for educational programs with 421,000 people visiting the building last term.
Alito and Kagan were also questioned about the potential of having cameras in the courtroom since many of the members of the public are not able to sit in the courtroom to watch arguments. Alito responded that the due to the electronic systems in place, opinions, transcripts and audio are already available on the court website following oral arguments. Alito expressed a concern that should the proceedings be televised, lawyers would make utterances for the sole purpose of becoming newsworthy.
Kagan, although acknowledging that cameras would give more access to the public, agreed with Alito in expressing concerns about the court’s ability to function effectively should proceedings be televised.