Shutdown sets off scramble to delay U.S. court deadlines

Tue Oct 1, 2013 5:13pm EDT
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By David Ingram and Nate Raymond

WASHINGTON Oct 1 (Reuters) - Faced with an indefinite government shutdown, U.S. government lawyers sought delays on Tuesday in court cases across the country on subjects ranging from competition among Idaho hospitals to drone strikes abroad.

The requests to postpone trials and deadlines for written briefs had been expected after the Justice Department cautioned on Monday that non-critical civil matters would fall victim to a lack of money. Only U.S. government matters that were deemed essential were allowed to go on until Congress allocates money for the fiscal year that began on Tuesday.

Courts granted some requests and denied others on Tuesday, the first day of the partial shutdown.

Judges in Washington, D.C., and New York refused to halt big cases challenging the merger of AMR Corp's American Airlines and US Airways Group Inc, and seeking to hold Bank of America Corp liable for mortgage fraud.

"We should, out of respect, observe a moment of silence for the passing of a great institution - I mean the federal government," U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan, who oversees the Bank of America trial, told jurors with a bit of sarcasm on Tuesday.

There was no immediate sign of when the political standoff that forced the shutdown would end.

Republicans in the House of Representatives had tried to tie renewal of government funding to measures undermining President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, while the Democratic-controlled Senate repeatedly rejected those efforts. The fiscal year begins on Oct. 1.

The Federal Trade Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Export-Import Bank of the United States joined the Justice Department in filing motions to stay proceedings.   Continued...