Sunday, July 21, 2013

The New York Times Editorial Board: Justice Sequestered

The New York Times

July 20, 2013

Justice Sequestered

The madness of Washington’s across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration is causing real damage to the American justice system — undermining the sound functioning of the courts and particularly imperiling the delivery of effective legal representation to poor people accused of federal crimes.
The $350 million reduction in the federal judiciary’s budget for fiscal 2013 has resulted in a roughly 8 percent cut to the network of high-quality federal defender offices across the country. It has forced the layoffs of many experienced lawyers who have devoted their professional careers to the underappreciated and underpaid work of representing indigent federal defendants. And it has inflicted a pay cut on the defenders who remain on staff in the form of up to 20 unpaid furlough days.
These hits to the core legal staff have been accompanied by other blows, including reductions in lawyer training, research, investigation of cases and expert help, including interpreters. The cuts have also meant crippling reductions to federal probation and pretrial services, including mental health treatment, drug treatment and testing, and court supervision — all with disquieting implications for people’s rights and public safety.
In April, a major terrorism trial in New York City being handled by Federal Defenders of New York was postponed until January after lawyers in that office told the judge that budget cuts had left them short of resources and staff. The defendant’s family has since hired a lawyer on its own. Many courts no longer conduct trials on some or all Fridays to accommodate the furloughs of federal defenders and strains in other areas, like courthouse security and the availability of federal marshals.
Judges in certain jurisdictions have warned that they may have to suspend civil jury trials if financing is not restored. All this comes on top of the budget-driven problems plaguing state courts, where representation of impoverished defendants is also grossly underfinanced.
The cuts for federal defenders may actually end up costing taxpayers more. Because indigent defendants still have a right to counsel, new cases that would ordinarily be handled by a federal defender will inevitably be taken up by court-appointed private lawyers. That will lead to worse results at a higher cost, according to academic studies.
That things have reached this point is a deep embarrassment for a nation grounded on the rule of law. Yet it appears that the situation is about to get much worse. Federal defender offices have been told to prepare for another round of cuts of roughly 14 percent for the 2014 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
The executive committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States, which sets policy for the federal judiciary, should seek ways to minimize the damage. For instance, it might reallocate funds from less critical administrative areas, spreading the pain of new furloughs across the judiciary staff (except judges). Or it could budget for a delay in fees to court-appointed private lawyers, thus lessening the need for immediate deductions.
But there are really no good alternatives here, given the continuing partisan standoff in Congress as well as lawmakers’ unwillingness to provide the emergency supplementary financing the courts have asked for. Reducing the hourly rates private lawyers are paid, as some have proposed, would simply compound the existing problem of finding capable private lawyers who will fully defend indigent clients.
One thing that might help is a louder and more forceful declaration from Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. about the damage the sequester is doing to America’s courts — the subject of a much-needed Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing scheduled for Tuesday by Senator Christopher Coons, a Delaware Democrat. If nothing else, drawing attention to the plight of federal defenders should make it harder for anyone to claim that the sequester’s impact is no big deal.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Yes, the Sequester Is Affecting the Job Market

July 5, 2013, 1:01 pm 
[To see full article with graphs, click title link:

Yes, the Sequester Is Affecting the Job Market

The across-the-board automatic federal budget cuts that began in March do not seem to be derailing the recovery so far, given that the job market over all has continued to grow. And certainly some of the scariest predictions about the sequester didn’t come true (partly because Congress stepped in to prevent their occurrence). But if you look closely at the data, the sequester still does seem to be affecting certain industries pretty badly.
As my colleague Floyd Norris wrote, government payrolls have been shrinking for several years. Those declines were mostly driven by state and local layoffs at first; lately, the layoffs have gotten worse at the federal level. In the last four months, the federal government has laid off 40,000 workers. And that number doesn’t indicate the full extent to which the sequester has affected employment, as many government agencies have resorted to furloughs rather than full-blown layoffs.
Below is a chart showing the numbers of federal workers who have been working “part time for economic reasons,” a term meaning they want to be working full time, but can’t get their employer to give them full-time hours. The numbers are not seasonally adjusted, so I’ve charted the trends for 2011, 2012 and 2013 to compare the level in a given month with its level exactly one year and two years earlier.
As you can see, there was a huge jump in the number of reluctant federal part-timers in June compared with the same month in 2011 and 2012. In June 2013, 148,000 federal workers were working part-time hours (defined as fewer than 35 hours a week) but wished they were working full time, compared with 58,000 in June 2012 and 55,000 in June 2011.
In fact, in every month starting in February, when agencies perhaps started preparing for the sequester, the number of reluctant federal part-timers has been higher than its level in 2012. In each of those months in 2013, the level has also been higher than in 2011, with the exception of April, when there were an equal number of federal part-timers for economic reasons in 2011 and 2013 (64,000).
And of course, these figures show only what’s happening with federal workers. There are plenty of private-sector workers whose jobs and hours depend on federal money, too, as I wrote in an article last week.
In that article, I calculated which industries were most reliant on federal defense money, based on Labor Department data showing where the Defense Department spends its money, and how money spent in any one sector affects employment in all the others (for example, employment of metal workers might rise when the government orders a new jet). The top five defense-sensitive industries are ship and boat building, facilities support services, aerospace product and parts manufacturing, scientific research and development services and electronic instruments manufacturing (which includes companies that make navigational instruments, for example).
Here’s a look at the monthly change in employment in these defense-sensitive industries, shown at an annualized percentage growth rate, versus all other industries:
As you can see, in the last few months, the defense-sensitive industries have been shedding jobs, while the rest of the country’s employers have been adding jobs over all. The trends for the previous months are noisy, but if you smooth them out, it looks as if the defense-sensitive industries and the other industries were both doing about equally well, with the exception of a huge downward spike in employment in the defense-sensitive industries around the time of the summer 2011 debt ceiling crisis.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Miltary Sequester Cuts 7.16.13

Stars and Stripes reports on how Marines are reacting to mental health furloughs (via The Libertarian Web site Already overbooked civilian mental health providers are now seeing Marines even less frequently than before the severe budget cuts know as the sequester. Combat casualties with traumatic brain injuries, post traumatic stress disorders, major depressive disorders, and memory problems that need routine are not receiving the treatment they need and deserve. Double the wait between appointments and shorter session times are some of the norms.

Airport Sequester Cuts 7.16.13

Sequester affects Foley Municipal Airport project ( reports an airport in Foley, Alabama, has had to delay renovating its runway. The runway is currently not up to FAA standards. The Congress has allowed the FAA to avoid furloughs; it does so by diverting funds from projects such as this one.

Sequester Misinformation 7.16.13

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio on the sequester via the rechtsdreck‏ site Newmax:
We need to get serious about tackling our debt and growing our economy. Unless the President steps up to plate too, all of us — especially our children and grandchildren — will suffer from his political stunts that do nothing to put people back to work, solve our debt crisis or safeguard our national security.
The political stunt was Rubio and his ilk's refusal to raise the debt ceiling in July/August 2011, which led to the sequester compromise. Until then, raising the debt ceiling had been so routine that it had been done 74 times between 1962 and 2011, including 10 times between 2001 and then. Note: Raising the debt ceiling is not to be mistaken for increasing spending, but is simply a way for the government to pay its previously incurred bills.


The Fox News [sic] Web site has removed its musings on the sequester improving the economy. There are some videos online where they have apparently broadcasted such a turn of truth on its head, but I haven't watched them.


Georgia Republican Congressman Austin Scott claims he warned us about the sequester even though he voted against increasing the debt ceiling leading up to the sequester.