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Impact of government shutdown reaches federal courts in Colorado

A defense attorney in Colorado wants people to be aware of the shutdown's impact on federal courts - not only because it will affect juror pay, but the outcome of cases, as well.

DENVER — UPDATE: The Judiciary said Tuesday it has enough funds to operate through the end of the month, and it will explore ways to sustain operations into February. Our previous story focused on the impacts if funding does run out:

Be warned, jurors. If you're expected in federal court next week, you might not get paid for your civic duty, or at least not right away.

The Judiciary runs out of funding after Friday because of the shutdown of the federal government, which has now dragged on past the month mark as lawmakers and President Trump debate the fate of a potential border wall with Mexico. If the funds are gone, the cases heard in the Tenth Circuit Federal Courts in downtown Denver will be impacted.

"It's timely and the press needs to be aware of what's going on here. I think this is extremely important," said defense attorney David Lane, who spoke with Next with Kyle Clark while on vacation.

Lane is representing a former federal prisoner in a civil case against prison guards and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. His client was assaulted while in a federal prison in Florence. Last week, the attorneys for the government requested an extension of time before a certain hearing.

"Counsel for the United States in this case has been placed on furlough status and thus 'is not permitted to work,'" the U.S. Attorney wrote.

"The government is no different than any other litigant in court. If you go out and sue somebody, and you don't pay your lawyer, and your lawyer stops appearing, tough luck for you, you're on your own. Same with the government," said Lane.

The judge granted the request but cautioned about any additional delays.

"The granting of this limited extension does not guarantee that the Court will grant additional continuances if appropriations are not restored in advance of the reset deadlines," wrote Magistrate Judge Scott Varholak.

"If they start missing deadlines, then plaintiffs could start moving for default judgments against the government, because they're failing to prosecute their case, they're failing to appear in court," said Lane. "If the government is suing somebody, the government is no longer showing up in court, so if I'm being sued by the federal government, I'd file a motion to dismiss, government won't respond to it because nobody's home."

When the funding runs out after Friday, criminal cases are expected to continue without interruption, according to the most recent update from the U.S. Judiciary. Civil cases, where taxpayer money could be awarded, would be most impacted.

Judges from across the country are warning the government attorneys that a shutdown is not a sufficient excuse for delays.

"No further extensions will be granted regardless of the lack of appropriated funds," wrote U.S. District Court of Colorado Judge Richard Matsch, in a recent order.

"The federal government's voluntary refusal to pay for its own agency's legal representation -- despite ample resources to do so -- does not constitute good cause for delaying this case," wrote U.S. District Court of Arizona Judge Douglas L. Reyes in another order.

"It is laughable," wrote U.S. District Court of Puerto Rico Judge William G. Young.