A “high percentage” of Justice Department employees would not have to stay at home during a government shutdown, according to the department’s official “contingency plan.”
"A significant portion of the Department's mission involves the protection of human life and property, and primarily for this reason the Department has a high percentage of activities and employees that are excepted from [federal] restrictions and can continue during a lapse in appropriations," according to the the department's "2011 Contingency Plan" finalized Thursday.
The plan is based on the "assumption" that a shutdown would last two weeks.
About 20 percent of Justice Department employees would face furlough. Not a single FBI official or U.S. Marshal in the field would be furloughed, but most support staff and some field personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would have to stay home, according to the plan.
It would take an estimated "one-half day" to complete a government shutdown, the Justice Department's contingency plan said.Of the department's 117,579 employees, 94,261 of them -- or more than 80 percent -- would be "excepted" from furlough and allowed to work.
For Justice Department cases being litigated in federal courts around the country, criminal litigation "will continue without interruption as an activity essential to the safety of human life and the protection of property," but civil litigation "will be curtailed or postponed to the extent that this can be done without compromising to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property," according to the plan.
Much of the Justice Department's current contingency plan is based on legal opinions and memos drafted by department lawyers in 1995, in the months before that year's government shutdown.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder, like his counterparts at other federal agencies, sent a letter to his employees telling them he appreciates their "hard work and dedication" and "continued service to the Department and the Nation."
"The President and I know that the uncertainty of the current situation puts Federal employees in a difficult position, and are very much aware that a shutdown would impose hardships on many employees as well as the groups and individuals the Department serves," Holder told all Justice Department employees in the letter obtained by Fox News.
Nevertheless, he told his employees, they are part of a department that "provides critical services to the American public."
"Your contributions touch people's lives in so many significant ways, and I want you to know how deeply I appreciate your dedication, your expertise, and your commitment to the Justice mission," Holder said in Wednesday’s letter.
The Obama administration is trying hard to avert a shutdown this time, Holder assured his ranks.
"Throughout the discussions about funding for the rest of the fiscal year, the President has made it clear that he does not want a government shutdown," Holder wrote in his letter. "The Administration is willing and ready to work day and night to find a solution with which all sides can agree."
But that was on Wednesday, when Democrats and Republicans still had days to hammer out a solution. Now, it's a matter of hours.