JUDGES WARN OF LOOMING CRISIS OF FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDERS
Unless Congress restores funding
July 23, 2013
(NATIONAL) -- If you were arrested for a crime today chances are good you would need the services of a public defender to represent you in court.
Most Americans cannot afford the services of an experienced, private defense attorney which, depending upon your area of the country, can range from $200 an hour up to $1200 an hour or more in price.
But what many Americans may be unaware of is that forced budget cuts have a taken a heavy toll on taxpayer-financed federal public defenders, and some judges now fear the U.S. court system might grind to a near halt if Congress doesn't act to restore money by the new spending year.
U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Theodore McKee said it "is not hyperbole" to describe the situation as a looming constitutional crisis, according to a report by USA Today.
Other judges agree there is concern that the courts are not going to be able to meet their constitutional obligation in the criminal context, both in terms of getting indigent defendants a speedy trial and adequate legal representation.
"We are talking about crippling the most effective, most efficient means of delivering excellent criminal representation to indigent people," McKee told the newspaper.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., has scheduled a congressional hearing Tuesday to discuss the issue.
He claims the looming crisis in providing adequate legal representation for the poor is just the latest in "stupid" automatic federal cuts that are hurting the country and will ultimately cost taxpayers more, according to the USA Today report.