U.S. Public Defenders Hurt by Sequestration: “We Have Nothing Left to Cut”


Steven Nolder, federal public defender in Columbus, Oh., laid himself off in the face of federal spending cuts known as sequestration, NPR reports. “These are not luxury services that we’re providing. These are constitutionally mandated services, and because they’re mandated, someone has to do it.” Other public defenders are reaching the breaking point. In New York, public defenders told a judge this week they need to delay the trial of Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law because they’re under orders to take about five weeks’ worth of furloughs. In Washington, D.C., federal public defender A.J. Kramer says things are worse than he’s ever seen in 33 years in the public defense system. “We have nothing left to cut,” Kramer says. “We can’t not pay the rent, and [ ] everything else is personnel. We can’t send a computer to court.” Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told the House Appropriations Committee last month that “the public defenders are below the level that would be minimum. And it does really seem to me that there is a serious problem in terms of crime, in terms of justice, in terms of adding costs to the system, if you can’t protect the defenders.”

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