Vincent Chang sat on a New York County Lawyers Association (NYCLA) panel at a public hearing on Friday, December 2 that addressed the impact of present and future budget cuts on the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York. Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the SDNY and Chief Judge Carol Amon of the EDNY testified at the hearing, which discussed, among other things, the effect that budget cuts would have on public safety, including courthouse security, as well as pretrial and probation supervisory services. The hearing also addressed issues relating to cutbacks in services provided to lawyers and to the public, such as cuts in clerk’s office support staff, docketing, interpreters, court reporting, audio visual, IT, and other areas, which could result in increased delays and other challenges to the administration of justice.
Here’s the text from NYCLA’s press release on this important issue:
NYCLA Task Force Concludes Judicial Budget Cuts on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York May Heighten Security Risks
NYCLA Task Force suggests lack of funding has negative effects on court operations.
New York, NY – August 26, 2011 – The New York County Lawyers’ Association (NYCLA) Task Force on Judicial Budget Cuts, focusing on the effects of budget cuts on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, released a Preliminary Report that concludes security may be at risk at the Daniel P. Moynihan Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street and overall courthouse operations will be affected as a result of anticipated personnel reductions.
“The NYCLA Preliminary Report documents the effect that budget cuts had on the court this current year and will have in fiscal year 2012,” said NYCLA President Stewart D. Aaron. “The Southern District of New York is the Mother Court, the oldest district court in the country. It is important that the Congress and President Barack Obama pay particular heed to the effect of budget cuts in the Southern District, not only because of the impacts on that court, but also because they are emblematic of the issues faced by federal courts around the country.”
The Preliminary Report, released on August 25, includes a detailed letter from Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York, Hon. Loretta A. Preska, noting that fundamental security issues identified in September 2002 have never been addressed due to budgetary considerations. According to the Report, “The courthouse is an obvious terrorist target and has an average of 2,500 visitors or more per day.”
Highlights from the report include:
- Lack of funding has resulted in delays in construction of a visitor’s screening pavilion outside the Moynihan Courthouse public entrance and delays in the relocation and protection of the air intakes.
- Fiscal year 2011 saw budget cuts of 7.6%, resulting in reductions in non-personnel spending.
- Further budget reductions are anticipated for fiscal year 2012, which may require non-judicial personnel reductions of up to 15%.
- In the event of a shutdown, “non-essential” personnel would be furloughed.
“Security at the Courthouse and the safety of Court personnel, attorneys and the public are matters of paramount concern that should be addressed immediately,” said Michael McNamara, chair of the Task Force’s Federal Courts Subcommittee.
Hon. Stephen G. Crane and Michael Miller, co-chairs of the Task Force, stated, “As this report demonstrates, the Federal Court has not been immune to budget cuts.” The Task Force plans to conduct a more in-depth investigation over the next several months, which will include sponsoring a public hearing at NYCLA in the fall, and the preparation of a more comprehensive report on the impact of the budget cuts on the administration of justice.
About the New York County Lawyers’ Association
The New York County Lawyers’ Association (www.nycla.org) was founded in 1908 as the first major bar association in the country that admitted members without regard to race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Since its inception, it has pioneered some of the most far-reaching and tangible reforms in American jurisprudence and has continuously played an active role in legal developments and public policy.
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