One of the pressing Justice Department problems is a budget squeeze at U.S. Attorneys’ offices that has led to declines in crime prosecutions and delays in major investigations, reports the Wall Street Journal. In the past few years, U.S. Attorneys’ offices have been unable to fill vacancies. Lawyers sometimes can’t travel to interview witnesses. Funds for basic office needs such as photocopying documents and obtaining deposition transcripts have been cut.
Department of Justice data show the impact. Prosecutions are down overall, with large drops in categories such as drugs, violent crime, and white-collar offenses. The then-Republican-controlled Congress was mainly responsible for the small increases in the budget for U.S. attorneys in recent years. Priorities set by the Justice Department also played a role. The department hired more Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to fight terrorism but didn’t push for U.S. attorneys’ offices to get big increases. Prosecutors say the impact has been largest in big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and San Diego, which have the heaviest case loads and plenty of private law firms able to offer generous salaries.