Today is my 4-year blogging anniversary. Other than the SDFL blog by David Markus, I believe my EDCA blog is the longest continuing federal district blog. A lot has changed in the EDCA over four years. Three district judges have retired; new judges have started. There's been a new US Attorney, new Court Clerk, and a new Federal Defender coming our way.
But today's word is sequestration. See Reuters, 3/12/13. The AO 3/12 Press Release predicts deep cuts leading to case delays and public safety concerns. Many Federal Defender Offices have been hit with layoffs and furloughs. See Atlantic, 3/11/13, "How the Sequester Threatens the U.S. Legal System". For example, the Southern District of Florida Federal Defender Office will essentially be closed every Friday through the end of the fiscal year or until the sequester ends. (Yet, the only thing Republican Congresspersons seem to be concerned about is delayed access into National Parks. Portland Press Herald, 3/11/13 and Daily Kos, 3/11/13).
In the EDCA, while we're still short on judges and almost everyone in the criminal justice system seems overloaded, sequestration is making things worse. The probation office has announced particularly deep cutbacks in services and mandatory employee furlough days. Much less drug testing, mental health counseling, and treatment services for offenders. Remember that Second Chance Act to help those getting out of prison to land on their feet and stay out of trouble. Gone. Hard to see cutting drug testing, mental health services, and supervision by probation officers as anything but penny wise, pound foolish.
Word is the Clerk's Office and U.S. Attorney's Office have avoided furloughs (at least for now), and the U.S. Attorney even announced a new hire last week starting in Fresno (white collar AUSA Michael Tierney). The EDCA Federal Defender will soon start two day a month unpaid furlough days for all employees through the end of the fiscal year. Friday furlough days will be staggered, so the office won't shut down. As far as I can tell, the Sixth Amendment right to counsel and the Speedy Trial Act still applies.
Thanks Republicans in Congress!