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Courts Suffering Under Sequestration Plea with Congress
Congress intended to cut some of the fat out of government spending, but in the process have cut out some necessary meat as well. This is the living experience of the federal courts, who after having to cut staff nearly to the breaking point have joined together to sign a letter written by Southern District Chief Judge Loretta Preska which addressed how sequestration has disabled justice to be articulated in 86 federal districts courts, an appeal directly to congress.
“Going into the next fiscal year, if we don’t get some relief we might as well close our doors,” said Preska in an interview, as reported by the New York Law Journal.
As the system bends and redistributes the cash loss across its system, it has had to bend on a few of its policies. Sentencing dates were once scheduled for 90 days out and now are schedule for 120 days out. Mental health treatment has been cut, and so have a variety of other treatments, excepting sex offenders, who alone seem to warrant keeping at status quo. Probation officers can visit houses less. “Reentry court,” where mid-level offenders could meet their judge and probation officer, has been cancelled entirely, and meanwhile staff has been cut left and right, putting intense pressure on those who remain to do the same case load with fewer hands.
“No one ended up with any sort of cushion” said Judge Carol Amon.
All eyes are on Congress who will decide next November whether we will have another year of sequestration, and whether any sort of exception will be made for the courts. Balancing accounting can only go so far: can we afford to cut funding to justice? These judges say no, and their letter is meant to have an impact on Congress’s decision. A lean government is ideal, but not a famished government.