Judges warn budget cuts could halt some trials

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 13, 2012 3:14 PM
Judges warn budget cuts could halt some trials

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some federal civil trials may have to be suspended because of steep budget cuts that Congress has scheduled to take effect in January, the federal judiciary's policy-making body said on Tuesday.

The 27-member group, which is made up of judges from around the country and meets twice a year, said it was concerned about what it described as a looming financial crisis.

It warned of significant reductions in staffing and court services if Congress failed to agree to a new plan to reduce the budget deficit or failed to amend the across-the-board cuts now set to take place in January.

David Sentelle, chief judge of the U.S. appeals court in Washington, D.C., told reporters after the meeting that contingency plans included furloughs for non-essential court personnel and putting on hold some civil trials.

The cuts also could mean there will not be enough money to pay attorneys who represent poor defendants through the end of the fiscal year, the judicial group said.

Funding for the federal judiciary has essentially been frozen at the same level for the past three years.

(Reporting By James Vicini; Editing by Eric Walsh)