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Funding Crisis Strikes Throughout Federal Courts, Judge Tells Senate Panel

Judge Julia S. Gibbons testifies before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts.

Judge Julia S. Gibbons testifies before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts.

A federal judge today told a Senate panel that the number of personnel working in U.S. courts is at the lowest level since 1999, and that federal court clerks and probation and pretrial services staff could be furloughed for close to 70,000 hours this fiscal year.

“If sufficient funding is not provided to the courts, we cannot provide the people of the United States the type of justice system that has been a hallmark of our liberty throughout the nation’s history,” Judge Julia S. Gibbons, Chair of the Budget Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, said. She testified before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts at a hearing entitled: “Sequestering Justice: How the Budget Crisis is undermining our Courts (senate.gov).”

Judge Gibbons called special attention to the funding problems facing the Federal Defender program, which incurred a $52 million cut due to sequestration. About 90 percent of federal criminal defendants require court-appointed counsel. “Funding cuts are threatening that very right, a right that has been a bedrock principle of our criminal justice system for half a century,” Judge Gibbons testified (pdf).

Judge Gibbons shared the following with the Subcommittee:

“Our workload does not go away because of budget shortfalls,” Judge Gibbons said. “Deep cuts mean that the Judiciary cannot perform adequately its Constitutional and statutory responsibilities.”

Related Topics: Budget, Judicial Conference of the United States, Sequestration