Impact on Legal & Public Information of Partial US Government Shutdown

The US federal government has been in partial shutdown since just before Christmas 2018.

There has been a lot of well deserved focus on how the shutdown is affecting the hundreds of thousands of US federal employees who are not being paid. Or air travel. Or the poorly housed. The list goes on.

Many observers are now starting to worry about how this will impact access to various kinds of government and legal information south of the border.

The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) issued an eBriefing today on the Impact of the Partial Federal Government Shutdown:

“Impact of the shutdown to selected agencies:

  • The Library of Congress/Law Library of Congress and the Government Publishing Office remain open. The shutdown has not closed the Library of Congress/Law Library of Congress or the Government Publishing Office. Both remain open because they are funded through the Legislative Branch appropriations bill, one of the five appropriations bills completed prior to the October 1 start of Fiscal Year 2019. Government websites operated by these agencies—including Congress.gov and govinfo—remain available.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Legal Services Corporation are open.
  • The National Archives and Records Administration is closed.
  • The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts is operating the Judiciary on limited funds through January 18, 2019 (…)”

“In general, federal departments and agencies that face a lapse in appropriations are required by law to shut down operations, with only ‘excepted activities’ relating to the ‘safety of human life or
protection of property’ …”

According to AALL, many government websites in the US are not being updated during the shutdown, including those of the Department of Justice and the federal Courts of Appeal.

There is also more information on the Free Government Information blog (Government shutdown causing information access problems) and the legal research website beSpacific (Shutdown: Dot-gov websites vulnerable to cyberattacks, certificates expiring amid funding pause).

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