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Lautenberg Highlights Damaging Impact of Sequestration on Federal Courts & Public Safety

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, which oversees the budget for the federal Judiciary, released new information today on the damaging impact budget sequestration would have on the federal courts in New Jersey and across the country. Senator Lautenberg voted against the legislation that created the sequester.

"Sequestration's cuts to the Judiciary would jeopardize the safety of our families. We'll have fewer probation officers to supervise criminal offenders, courtroom security will be slashed, and cuts to mental health and drug treatment programs could lead to more offenders relapsing into lives of crime," Lautenberg said. "It's time to replace these cuts with a balanced approach, but that won't happen until Republicans stop protecting loopholes for the wealthy and big corporations."

Lautenberg released the following impacts to the federal Judiciary expected if budget sequestration goes into effect:

The budget for the federal Judiciary would be cut by more than $300 million;

A 14 percent reduction in staffing dollars in probation and pretrial service offices would result in less supervision of offenders out in communities;
Thousands of employees would be laid off or forced to take unpaid leave for an extended period;

A 20 percent funding cut for substance abuse and mental health treatment for federal offenders would increase the likelihood of recidivism;

A 30 percent cut for court security systems and equipment would lead to reduced hours for court security officers and jeopardize the safety of litigants, witnesses, jurors, employees, and judges;

Reduced courthouse staffing and hours, and possible court closings on certain days would limit public access and result in delays in court proceedings, most notably in civil and bankruptcy cases.

In New Jersey, the federal courts would be forced to reduce their staff by nearly 13 percent, which comes on top of additional staff reductions in recent years due to budget cuts. At a time when the District of New Jersey's caseload has risen by nearly 37 percent since 2009, sequestration would lead to an overall staff reduction of nearly 21 percent since 2009. Civil cases would come to a near standstill in the District Court because remaining staff would have to focus on criminal cases in accordance with the Speedy Trial Act.

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