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. .. That things have reached this point is a deep embarrassment for a nation grounded on the rule of law. Yet it appears that the situation is about to get much worse. Federal defender offices have been told to prepare for another round of cuts of roughly 14 percent for the 2014 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
Rumpole says: You pay for the justice you get. In state court we have always said that the pay for public defenders and private court appointed lawyers has not kept pace with the dramatic increase in sentences and minimum mandatories. And it's not just lawyer pay. A good lawyer is worth a warm bucket of spit without the aid of investigators and experts. You can't try a case without any ammo.
If society wants to warehouse felons- violent and non-violent alike- then society should be prepared to pay for the privilege of incarcerating these people forever- and that means insuring they get a great (not an adequate) defense.
See you when we get back.