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August 28, 2015

Judiciary Hates Sequestration, Too

Friday night news dump bulletin just in from the White House: The sequester is still bad policy and hurting government agencies.

This time, though, it’s not just another agency complaining about the hit — it’s the entire judicial branch saying its operations are being hampered by the across-the-board cuts that kicked in earlier this year. The White House has submitted a request for a $72.9 million supplemental appropriations bill to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to help curb layoffs, furloughs and cuts to programs, such as “drug testing, substance abuse, and mental health treatment services for defendants awaiting trial and offenders released from prison.”

Since the sequester took effect in March, certain carve-outs have been made to the mandated cuts for different government agencies, including for meat inspectors and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Here are key excerpts from the letter sent from Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to President Barack Obama, which then was passed along to Boehner:

The Judicial Branch’s request notes that sequestration is impacting the ability of the Judiciary to meet its mission, similar to many Federal agencies across the government. States, communities, businesses, and non-profit organizations across the country are experiencing harmful impacts from sequestration. As a matter of comity, and consistent with 31 U.S.C. 1107, I recommend that you transmit this proposal to the Congress. However, one-off sequestration fixes will leave in place damaging cuts in other critical areas across the Government. The Administration has been clear that the only way to truly fix sequestration is to replace it with balanced deficit reduction, such as that proposed in your FY 2014 Budget.

This proposal would provide $18.5 million to avoid further staffing cuts and furloughs in clerks of court and probation and pretrial services offices during the fourth quarter of FY 2013. This funding would save the jobs of approximately 500 court employees and avoid 14,400 planned furlough days for 3,300 court employees. In addition, $13.0 million would restore half of the sequestration cuts to drug testing, substance abuse, and mental health treatment services for defendants awaiting trial and offenders released from prison. Timely diagnosis and treatment of drug and mental health conditions is critical to defendants/offenders successfully completing their terms of release and ensuring community safety.

This proposal would provide: $27.7 million to avoid deferring payments to private attorneys representing indigent defendants under the Criminal Justice Act for the last 15 business days (3 weeks) of the fiscal year. Without additional funding, sequestration cuts would necessitate that these expenses shift to FY 2014. These costs were not included in the Judiciary’s FY 2014 budget request to the Congress; $8.7 million to avoid further staffing cuts through layoffs, buyouts and early outs, and furloughs in Federal defender organizations during the fourth quarter of FY 2013. This funding would save the jobs of approximately 50 employees and avoid 9,600 planned furlough days for 1,700 Federal defender organization employees; and the remaining $5.0 million would be used for projected defense representation and related expert costs for high-threat trials, including high-threat cases in New York and Boston that, absent sequestration, the Defender Services program would have been able to absorb without the need for supplemental funding.

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    They have to play buy the rules and they don’t like it. Only the branches have to live with their means …Heaven forbid that the white house actually live by the rules they set down. What’s good for the goose, it seems, is NOT good for the gander.
    Too Bad, live with it! Everyone else is.

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