Lawyers: Courthouse Safety Harmed by Sequestration

Friday, 28 Jun 2013 08:50 PM

 

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The U.S. government spending cuts known as sequestration are compromising courthouse safety, a lawyers group said in a letter to President Barack Obama and 47 members of Congress.

Robert Anello, president of the Federal Bar Council, an organization of attorneys who practice before the federal courts in New York, Connecticut and Vermont, said in the letter that it’s “imperative” the president and lawmakers reach an agreement to restore funding to the courts.

“The courts in this circuit have been compromised by cuts to their security and physical maintenance budgets, reduced job security for personnel in all departments, and reduced hours for bankruptcy proceedings,” Anello said in the letter yesterday.

A $50 million shortfall in the account for judicial security nationwide has prevented New York federal courts from making needed upgrades to security cameras and computer systems, Anello said. The courts are considering firing security staff and limiting access to courthouses, he said.

“The sequester has thus compromised the personal safety of the judges and other public servants who administer our court system, and has also compromised the ability of American citizens to observe court proceedings in a secure setting,” Anello said in the letter.

The courts in New York and Brooklyn have reduced non- judicial staffing by 40 percent in the past two years, causing “disruptions and delays,” according to Anello.

The cuts have also resulted in a 20 percent reduction in the budget for the Federal Defender’s office, which represents 40 percent of criminal defendants in the federal districts that cover New York City and surrounding counties, Anello said.


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