Oregon

Sequestration Pummels Oregon's Federal Courts

OPB | July 6, 2013 10:25 p.m. | Updated: July 8, 2013 6:09 a.m. | Portland

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Oregon’s federal courts are bracing for sequestration cuts that will alter the carriage of justice.

The federal courts have already cancelled criminal hearings on Fridays, to accommodate prior budget cuts.

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In August, the federal public defender’s office must make a choice: lay off 20 to 25 employees, or implement 70 to 80 furlough days, which federal defender Steven Wax equates to a 30 percent pay cut. Salary, he says, is only one cutback.

“The 40-some years that the system has existed, we have not been buried by unconscionably large caseloads. We’ve been able to conduct the investigation that’s needed, and hire the experts. That’s now threatened,” Wax says.

Wax foresees recommending cases for dismissal, when there’s not enough money in the budget to provide an adequate defense.

Other reductions are gutting salary funding in the federal prosecutors’ office and the bankruptcy court. So far, administrators have minimized layoffs through attrition and other reductions.

U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall says she’s deeply concerned with how cutbacks in probation services will undermine drug and alcohol treatment centers.

With less cash available to pay for treatment of federal prisoners, Marshall fears the centers’ budgets will be in jeopardy.

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