Judge orders W. Pa. fed court employees to work

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PITTSBURGH - The chief judge over the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania has ordered government employees to remain on the job even if a partial government shutdown continues and stops their pay.

U.S. District Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti issued the order Thursday that about 160 members of the judges' staffs and clerk's offices are "essential." That means they'll have to continue working even if money to pay them runs out by Oct. 18, as projected under the impasse pitting House Republicans against Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama.

“A good number of employees in my office may be the main breadwinner as well, unfortunately, the judiciary doesn’t have the authority to grant pay advances or anything along those lines operating with no money,” U.S. District Court Clerk of Court Robert Barth Jr. said.

The western district courts cover 25 western Pennsylvania counties, with courthouses in Pittsburgh, Johnstown and Erie.

“I think the whole situation is deplorable and the courts ought to be funded along with everything else in the government,” attorney Tim McNair said.

The workers will eventually be paid -- even if the partial shutdown lasts beyond Oct. 17 -- once the government is funded again.

Channel 11’s Lisa Sylvester reported that those showing up for federal jury duty after next week will be told that their pay will also be delayed. The U.S. District Court pays $40 per day plus mileage and parking.