Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Federal Court Funding Hearings

 The National Law Journal yesterday related judges and lawyers from around the country again trying to warn Capital Hill of the dangers of inadequate federal court funding,
   Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge and chairwoman of the U.S. Judicial Conference’s budget committee,  Julia Gibbons, told a Senate subcommittee that the nearly $350 million in cuts to the courts this year under the across-the-board government spending reductions called sequestration, have been “devastating” and “painful,” the article said, and that “if funding levels remain flat or decline, it compromises the constitutional mission of the courts.”

   Michael Nachmanoff, federal public defender for the Eastern District of Virginia, said that the nation’s federal public defender's system has lost more than 200 employees and will be even worse off when the new budget starts on October 1, 2013, federal defenders being forced to terminate up to half their employees and close branch offices if funding remained at the same level.

  Some in Washington seem to be listening, the article reported, with .the House Appropriations Committee last week approving a fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill that includes $6.5 billion for the courts, roughly the same level it was in 2013, before sequestration cuts hit, and the  Senate appropriations subcommittee approved $6.7 billion for the courts, an increase of $148 million or 2.2 percent above the fiscal year 2013 level. “It restores severe cuts to Federal Defender offices and ensures that they are adequately staffed,” a bill summary says.

There were still sharp disagreements between other budget priorities for the House, Senate and White House, the article reported Gibbons as saying, and those conflicts could lead to yet another partisan battle in Congress that ends with a continuing resolution that either keeps the sequestration cuts or otherwise keeps the federal courts budget flat.

  The Ohio Supreme Courts news service, too, had additional information about Judge Gibbons’ testimony before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts at the hearing titled: “Sequestering Justice: How the Budget Crisis is undermining our Courts (”

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