Oct. 10, 2013 – State Bar of Wisconsin President Patrick J. Fiedler joined presidents of state bar associations in Illinois, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Nevada and Florida this week to urge members of their respective Congressional delegations to end devastating cuts to federal court funding.
The joint letter from the bar presidents (see full text below) went to each member of Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Sen. Ron Johnson, Rep. Paul Ryan, Rep. Gwen Moore, Rep. Reid Ribble, Rep. Sean Duffy, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Rep. Tom Petri, Rep. Mark Pocan and Rep. Ron Kind.
Highlights of the letter include:
- Continued failure to adequately fund federal courts places the public at risk and puts justice in jeopardy.
- Cuts in staffing have resulted in slower processing of civil and bankruptcy cases in some courts, thus causing individuals, small businesses, and corporations not to have their disputes and matters heard in a timely manner.
- Funding cuts to the federal defender services is most troubling, in that it directly affects a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and a speedy trial.
- Federal sequestration cuts jeopardize the federal judiciary’s efforts to fulfill its obligations under the Constitution and federal law.
- Significant cuts and reductions for court security, drug testing, substance use disorder, and mental health treatment programs, as well as parole and probation services, increase the risk to public safety.
- The letter concludes by asking that sufficient funding be provided to the federal courts.
The seven state bar associations have a combined membership of more than 286,500. For more information, contact Andrea Gage, public relations coordinator for the State Bar of Wisconsin. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. or by phone at (608) 250-6025.
FIVE BARS & FRIENDS
1700 Lake Shore Drive
Columbus, Ohio 43204
October 9, 2013
We write to you in our capacity as presidents of several state bar associations that are deeply concerned with the FY 2013 sequestration cuts that imperil the federal judiciary in its efforts to carry out its duties and responsibilities as set forth in the Constitution and by acts of Congress.
The fair, efficient and effective administration of justice is at the foundation of a free and democratic society and serves to instill in the public the trust and confidence that is essential to preserve and protect the Rule of Law. It is no secret that our federal courts have had to downsize and furlough staff and scale back programs that have served the judiciary and the public well. As the third branch of our constitutional government, the judiciary is not just another federal agency and must be adequately funded.
We are aware that cuts in staffing have resulted in slower processing of civil and bankruptcy cases in some courts, thus causing individuals, small businesses, and corporations not to have their disputes and matters heard in a timely manner. The continued funding cuts to federal defender services is most troubling in that it directly impacts a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel and a speedy trial.
We are also cognizant of the reports that significant cuts and reductions for court security, drug testing, substance use disorder, and mental health treatment programs, as well as parole and probation services, increase the risk to public safety. The failure to fund these programs and services places our judiciary and the public at risk and puts justice in jeopardy.
On July 23, 2013, the Honorable Julia S. Gibbons, Chair of the Committee on the Budget of the Judicial Conference of the United States, appeared before the Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate. We attach for your reference a copy of Judge Gibbons’ testimony and conclude our letter with her closing statement:
“We appreciate that Congress has difficult decisions to make regarding allocating scarce federal dollars among government agencies. We ask that Congress take into account the Judiciary’s unique Constitutional role in our system of government and the importance to our citizenry of an open, accessible, and well-functioning federal court system. We believe, and I hope you agree, that the federal Judiciary is a vital component of what a free society affords its people, and a standard for the world to emulate. Finally, as a co-equal partner in this great democracy, we ask that Congress preserve our federal court system now and in the future by providing sufficient funding for the operation of the federal courts.”
We further note that, in his first official communication as president of the American Bar Association, James R. Silkenat called upon all ABA members to work with members of Congress to secure funding in order that “our federal courts be able to plan for and execute their essential Constitutional and statutory functions in a fair, efficient and timely manner.”
On behalf of the lawyers who practice in the federal courts and the clients who turn to our courts to seek justice and resolve disputes, we share the concerns of the judges and respectfully ask, as did Judge Gibbons, that sufficient funding be provided for the operation of the federal courts. Our system of justice and our citizens deserve no less.
Paula H. Holderman
President, Illinois State Bar Association
Patrick J. Fiedler
President, State Bar of Wisconsin
President, Ohio State Bar Association
President, State Bar of Nevada
Ralph J. Lamparello
President, New Jersey State Bar Assn.
Eugene K. Pettis
President, The Florida Bar
David M. Schraver
President, New York State Bar Association