Federal Cuts Weaken Justice System

As described by the New York Times editorial board, while its impact may have been stymied elsewhere, sequestration is causing real damage to the American justice system.

The $350 million reduction in the federal judiciary’s budget for fiscal 2013 has resulted in a roughly 8 percent cut to the network of high-quality federal defender offices across the country. It has forced the layoffs of many experienced lawyers who have devoted their professional careers to the underappreciated and underpaid work of representing indigent federal defendants. And it has inflicted a pay cut on the defenders who remain on staff in the form of up to 20 unpaid furlough days.

These hits to the core legal staff have been accompanied by other blows, including reductions in lawyer training, research, investigation of cases and expert help, including interpreters. The cuts have also meant crippling reductions to federal probation and pretrial services, including mental health treatment, drug treatment and testing, and court supervision — all with disquieting implications for people’s rights and public safety.

The cuts to federal defenders may end up costing taxpayers more and reduce the effectiveness of the system, the editorial describes.  In New York, a high-profile terrorism case was delayed five months because of cuts to resources and staff.  Additional cuts of up to 14% for Federal defender offices are expected in October 1, 2014.

For more information, see the full story from the Times.