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Federal Judiciary Appropriations, 1792-2010

Daniel S. Holt
January 1, 2012

Throughout its history, the chief source of funding for the federal judiciary of the United States has been money authorized by Congress to be expended out of the general funds of the federal treasury. The federal judiciary has also received support from other sources, such as litigant fees and the fines, forfeitures, and penalties collected by the courts in the course of government litigation. This brief introductory essay surveys the changing procedures for determining the level of congressional appropriations and for disbursing appropriated funds throughout the federal judicial system. The essay also examines the historical relationship between the federal courts, Congress, and the executive agencies charged with supervising judicial expenditures and budgeting.