US judges urge Congress to give courts more money

AP News
Posted: Aug 15, 2013 2:09 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top federal judges in 49 states are urging lawmakers to avoid another round of automatic spending cuts that would have a "devastating and long-lasting impact" on the federal courts.

It's an unusual letter from the chief judges of trial courts in every state but Nevada. It says that the $350 million reduction in the judiciary's budget for the current year has dramatically slowed court proceedings and put public safety at risk. The judges say there are fewer probation and other law enforcement officers to deal with record numbers of convicts who have been released from prison or given alternative sentences.

The letter was sent this week to congressional leaders in both parties in the House and Senate. Congress is not in session in August.

"We had to let people know that we've cut so far past the fat and so far past the muscle that we're into the bone," Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan said in an interview Thursday. Preska, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, helped organize support for the letter.

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A second year under the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration "will have a devastating and long-lasting impact on the administration of justice in this country," the judges said.

Spending bills that have cleared the House and Senate Appropriations Committees include modest increases in the judiciary's budget. But there is no guarantee a spending bill will win final congressional approval before the next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Congress will return in September to try to negotiate a long-term spending deal.