The Effect of Sequestration on the Federal Public Defender System

The Huffington Post has an important story on the impact of sequestration on funding for federal public defenders. An excerpt:

The public defender system hasn’t just been stripped bare by sequestration, its bones have been chiseled away as well. There has been a 9 percent reduction in the roughly $1 billion budget for federal public defender’s offices, while federal defenders in more than 20 states are planning to close offices. Careers have been ended and cases have been delayed. All of it has occurred in the name of deficit reduction — and yet, for all the belt-tightening being demanded of the nation’s public defenders, money is not actually being saved.

When federal public defenders aren’t able to take a case because of a conflict, or because their workload is too great, the job falls to private court-appointed attorneys known as Criminal Justice Act panel attorneys. Those lawyers are paid from the same pool of money as federal public defenders, but they cost much more and, according to some studies, are less effective.

. . . .

All told, observers expect that federal public defenders will end up having to lay off between one-third and one-half of their staffs. The AP estimated that 2,700 jobs will be lost over the next two years. Strictly in terms of the number of jobs lost, few if any professions have been hit harder by budget cuts.

Thanks to Prawfs for the link.

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