Federal Public Defenders Especially Hard Hit by “Sequester” Furloughs


Federal courthouses in the Washington, D.C., region will keep their doors open in the face of mandatory spending cuts in the “sequestration” process, but some key players are likely to be missing, says the Washington Post. It’s a situation that will be reflected nationwide. Federal prosecutors, public defenders, and U.S. marshals, all critical to the daily work at U.S. district courts, have been told to plan on the possibility of taking more than a dozen furlough days beginning as soon as this month. To accommodate absences, Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in the capital, is preparing to call off criminal cases every other Friday beginning April 26. Lamberth hopes the scaled-back schedule is temporary but that “the real question is, what happens next year? We just don't know.” Hardest hit are public defenders. Lawyers appointed to represent the poor in federal cases will be forced to take as many as 27 days of unpaid leave by the end of September. “It's tremendously demoralizing, even for people who are used to fighting against extraordinary odds,” said Michael Nachmanoff, federal public defender for the Eastern District of Virginia. “These cuts are devastating. At some point, the program can't survive.”

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