Over at Prawfs, Fred Vars has a petition calling for full funding of Federal Defender Services. Initially people signed on by adding a comment, but comments are now closed. I hope many of our readers will join in this call by emailing Fred at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, institutional affiliation (if any) and city of residence. The full text of of the petition follows.
Sequestration imperils the constitutional right of criminal defendants to adequate legal representation. About 90% of federal criminal defendants require court-appointed counsel. In FY 2013, sequestration resulted in a $52 million cut to Federal Defender Services, bringing massive layoffs and furloughs. It is estimated that in FY 2014, if nothing is done, FDS will be forced to terminate as many as one-third to one-half of employees. Funding for prosecutors is apparently headed in the opposite direction. The Senate Appropriations Committee last week announced a $79 million increase to the FY 2014 budget for U.S. Attorneys’ offices for the express purpose of bringing more criminal cases in federal court. This radical imbalance threatens the fundamental right to counsel. Please join me in urging Congress and the President to restore adequate funding for Federal Defender Services.