April 08, 2011

John Cooney quoted in CNN about Blackberry usage during government shutdown

2 min

Venable partner John Cooney, who served as general counsel at the Office of Management and Budget during the 1995-1996 government shutdown, was quoted in an April 8, 2011 CNN Money article on a subject that is top of mind for many government workers; how will a shutdown affect their ability to use their Blackberries?

Cooney discussed the Antideficiency Act of 1884, which prevents non-essential federal employees from working when there is no government budget with which to pay them. "For the first time, government agencies are trying to figure out how the Antideficiency Act applies to computers and BlackBerry devices. It's a difficult problem to solve."

The article also referenced senior Venable partner and past chair Ben Civiletti, who served as President Ronald Reagan's attorney general and ruled, in 1981, that agencies may allow staff to come to work on the morning after a shutdown to engage in shutdown related activities as long as negotiations are continuing. The article surmised that this could relate to activities such turning in BlackBerries.

On the subject of extreme measures that the government could take, such as shutting down the email servers of government agencies, Cooney said, “Agencies are not required to take heroic efforts when the government shuts down for a short period of time." He went on to say, “But if it's a long shutdown, the agencies might have to block certain users' e-mails at the router or system level."