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Public safety needs adequate court funding

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Our federal courts are quickly finding it difficult to carry out their duties and responsibilities as set forth in the Constitution and acts of Congress because of funding shortfalls. I join presidents of the state bar associations in Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Florida to urge members of Congress to end the devastating cuts to federal court funding.

It’s no secret that our federal courts have been forced to downsize, furlough staff, and scale back programs in the government’s attempt to balance the budget. The most troubling aspect of these cuts is that they literally imperil the judiciary, a co-equal branch of government. 

Cuts in staffing have resulted in slower processing of civil and bankruptcy cases in some courts. This affects individuals, small businesses and corporations, which are unable to have legal matters heard in a timely fashion. Continued cuts to the federal defender’s office directly affect a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to legal counsel and a speedy trial.

Funding cuts have also impacted court security, drug testing, substance use disorder, and mental health treatment programs, as well as parole and probation services, all of which could lead to an increased risk to public safety. 

On behalf of the 32,000 members of the Illinois State Bar Association, I ask Illinois residents to write to their congressmen, urging them to make adequate court funding a priority. Our system of justice and our citizens deserve no less.

Note to readers: Paula H. Holderman is president of the Illinois State Bar Association.

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