Archive for the 'Court Funding' Category
A lot is at stake when federal courts face the impact of budget cuts on such promises made under the Constitution as the right to a speedy trial and to a lawyer, veteran legal journalist Lyle Denniston writes.
In a “Constitution Check” column that he writes for the National Constitution Center, Denniston tackles tough questions raised earlier this week in New York. A New York Times article (see Gavel Grab) said federal public defenders representing terror suspect Sulaiman Abu Ghaith cited furloughs in their office, as a result of across-the-board U.S. budget cuts, in asking a judge not to schedule an early trial.
The budget cuts are known as “sequestration” or the “sequester.” Denniston examines their context and offers, “[B]ecause of the way sequester works, the lack of money to finance Abu Ghaith’s defense does not appear to be unconstitutional. Congress has not told Judge [Lewis] Kaplan to deny access to a defense lawyer in that or any other case, and, indeed, Congress has not targeted the federal defender’s office in New York specifically for a cut that no other agency has to withstand.” Read more
Steve Nolder, director of the public defender’s office in southern Ohio, chose to fire himself instead of other lawyers after his office’s budget was slashed this year. Elsewhere, one of the top-rated lawyers in Northern Texas left his job in the wake of a 25 percent pay cut.
It’s a similar story in federal public defenders’ offices across the nation, according to the Huffington Post. Across-the-board budget cuts in March, known as sequestration, have led to hard consequences for many lawyers.
The article reports that the federal public defender system took an estimated $43 million cut this year. Texas public defender Richard Anderson is worried about losing experienced talent.
“I have spent the last seven years really investing in the legal acumen of my office. I have already moved from infinite rage to some sort of degree of quiet acceptance on my grief cycle, but I hope that articles will shine a light where we can get some relief.”
The potential impact of across-the-board budget cuts on the federal courts is making headlines in New York, where “sequestration,” as the cuts are called, could figure into timing of the terror trial of Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law.
A New York Times article said federal public defenders representing Sulaiman Abu Ghaith cited furloughs in their office, as a result of the budget cuts, in asking a judge not to schedule an early trial.
Replied U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan (photo), “It’s extremely troublesome to contemplate the possibility of a case of this nature being delayed because of sequestration. Let me say only that — stunning.”
Federal public defenders have made requests to a handful of Manhattan federal judges to step aside in cases because of sequestration.
Chief Judge Loretta A. Preska said, “It’s devastating.” There likely would Read more
Integral individuals to federal courthouses in the Washington, D.C. region have been alerted that they may have to take more than a dozen furlough days in the upcoming months. Federal prosecutors, public defenders and U.S. marshals are all preparing to take unpaid leave due to across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration, reports the Washington Post.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth is considering closing the courthouse every other Friday starting April 26. He expressed uncertainty as to the duration of the scheduling changes.
D.C. Superior court spokeswoman Anita Jarman says that funding cuts will limit how often hallways and restrooms are cleaned, as well as when escalators can be fixed.
Federal public defenders may have to take up to 27 days of unpaid leave from now until September. “It’s tremendously demoralizing, even for people who are used to fighting against extraordinary odds,” said public defender for the Eastern District of Virginia, Michael S. Nachmanoff. “These cuts are devastating. At some point, the program can’t survive.” Read more
Federal courts all across the country are announcing that they will be furloughing employees and closing courthouses in the wake of across-the-board federal budget cuts earlier this year.
Courts in Colorado and other states are planning to close on Fridays from April 26 through September, according to the Blog of Legal Times. U.S. Chief District Judge Marcia Krieger of Colorado ordered “an end to hearings and trials in criminal cases” during those five months.
The article states that the full consequences of the $350 million cut to federal court funding are “still unknown.”
Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has mentioned that Department of Justice employees may be furloughed, but he will not make a final decision on this until mid-April. Read more
As a result of recent budget cuts to federal courts, the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles plans to close on Fridays from April to August, reports Courthouse News Service.
The clerk’s office says it will furlough employees on seven Fridays between those months. “We will have a drastically reduced staff, so many things will not get done on those days,” said Chief Judge George King.
The article reports that the Los Angeles courthouse serves the largest population in the country, and has one of the highest volumes of caseloads. Read more
On Wednesday, federal judge and chair of the Judicial Conference Budget Committee Julia S. Gibbons (photo), testified before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on the dire impact of sequestration on federal courts.
According to the United States Courts webpage, Gibbons warned that under budget cuts, “the Judiciary cannot continue to operate at such drastically reduced funding levels without seriously compromising the Constitutional mission of the federal courts.”
Gibbons noted areas where a lack of monetary resources would prevent the courts from functioning effectively, such as providing legal counsel for individuals who can’t afford an attorney, and paying for security personnel to “ensure the safety and security of court staff, litigants, and the public in federal court facilities.” Read more
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (photo) has been on and off the court’s bench over the past decade, but he says the court system now has $38 million less than it did when he was first elected in 2001, reports the Associated Press.
At a Montgomery Rotary Club meeting this week, Moore stated that 498 fewer people are employed by the courts than in 2001, and 300 more may be laid off depending on budget proposals from the state Legislature.
Moore has not proposed a solution to the funding problem, but he has asked legislators to keep drug courts open, the article says.
“[T]hese cuts threaten to erode several core constitutional values, including the right to a jury trial and due process,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg wrote in a letter to House and Senate leadership.
The across-the-board budget cuts that were triggered March 1 are called sequestration. “I write to urge decisive action to identify a bipartisan solution to allay the damage that sequestration is beginning to cause,” Brandenburg’s letter said.
While defenders of federal courts have spoken frequently in the past few weeks about a need for greater funding, court systems at the state level are also experiencing dire consequences from smaller budgets.
In Oregon, layoffs have led to overflowing caseloads and shuttered courthouses, an Oregonian editorial says. According to the state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Balmer, the courts need $410 million from 2013-2015 in order to run efficiently everyday at full capacity.
While the state courts deserve to be funded equally as a third branch of government, the editorial argues, legislators have yet to find an adequate source of money. The courts are having to spend increasingly more on its pension system, making it difficult to find a long term solution to the system’s search for funds, it says. Read more