ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — In a rare move, a federal judge in Minnesota invited media cameras into his courtroom on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Michael Davis asked lawmakers to put a stop to sequestration cuts that would impact the federal court system.
Time is running out, as the cuts would take effect October 1, the start of the new fiscal year.
Sequestration debates have been in the public consciousness since 2011, with much ado about cutting money across the board from federal agencies. But Davis says the court system isn’t any agency, it’s an entire branch of government.
Davis is desperate to let the public know this could be a move that destroys the function of the judicial system in this country.
He and other Minnesota district judges invited Minnesota’s entire Congressional delegation and staff, hoping Congress would pass bills to reverse the cutbacks.
They say public defender services face 23 percent cuts and would suffer dramatically, meaning it would be harder for people who can’t afford a lawyer to get their constitutional rights to a speedy trial and proper legal representation.
“Justice will slow down, cases will not tried quickly as possible, we may not have funding for jurors,” Davis said.
They say the courts will also face layoffs, furloughs and service cutbacks.
Davis said public safety is at risk. Probation officers have already reduced drug testing and location monitoring for some offenders.
Only Congressman Ellison showed up in person today. He’s against the cutbacks.
“You want to have a democracy, not just elections. You have to be able to go to court and get fair trial,” Ellison said.
The federal court system made deep budget cuts last year. Davis plans to meet with other lawmakers in person in the next month before it’s too late.
If the cutbacks happen, private attorneys would have to be hired instead of public defenders, which would cost the courts about 30 percent more.