Ch-Ch-Changes: 5th Cir. Vacancies; Exact Change for Cashiers

By William Peacock, Esq. on September 22, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

For a long, long while, we've wondered what was up with the Fifth Circuit's longstanding vacancies. In fact, just last week, I was speculating about the cause of the vacancies (a Democratic president versus two Republican senators) on FindLaw's Strategist blog. Looks like I'm not the only one wondering what's up: A blog post on the Thomson Reuters Legal Solutions blog goes into detail on the vacancies, as well as possible upcoming vacancies that could drastically change the court.

And speaking of change, the Clerk's Office at the Fifth Circuit has announced that starting this Wednesday, there will be none -- exact change is required for cash payments. I thought the announcement and new policy were pretty hilarious and inconvenient, but then the court, responding to jokes at its expense, explained the really good reason behind the change regarding change.

2 Vacancies, No Nominations Coming?

But, but, a vacancy was just filled, wasn't it?

Yep. Judge Gregg Costa joined the Fifth Circuit bench in June. Both his appeals and district court nominations came from President Obama, yet were virtually unopposed in the Senate, likely because Costa was recommended by two Republican senators and previously clerked for two Republican appointees on the federal bench, including Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

That seems like the only way the two remaining vacancies, both out of Texas, will be filled. Jason Steed, on the Legal Solutions Blog, goes into a handful of similar candidates, as well as a pair of judges that were previously vetted but not yet nominated.

He also makes another good point: Four Reagan-appointed judges on the Fifth Circuit bench are old enough to be eligible for senior status, and could be looking to step down in the near future, bringing even more change to the bench. However, they would presumably wait until at least 2016, just in case a Republican is elected to the White House.

A Really Good Reason for the Exact Change Policy (Starting Sept. 24)

So, why is the Fifth Circuit no longer providing change for cash payments? After Howard Bashman at How Appealing playfully poked at the new policy, Lyle W. Cayce, the Clerk of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, responded to Bashman with a lengthy explanation.

The answer? It's 2014 and nobody needs change. Cashiers recalled only two instances in the past year where they had actually provided change for cash customers. And apparently, this is part of a larger move with the U.S. Treasury Office and the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to eliminate change-making services because, as Cayce notes, doing so is apparently a resource-intensive nightmare:

Making change requires us to maintain a special Imprest Fund, and to designate cashiers and back up cashiers for the fund. We have to make monthly audits and reports regarding this fund, and internal controls intended to reduce the risk of loss or theft require me to designate different employees to receive, receipt, store, issue, and account for the funds.

Yeah, considering that only two customers per year actually need change, this seems like a wise cost-cutting move.

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