Published on: Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Hundreds of employees within the federal public defender system could be laid off under funding levels proposed by the House and Senate, according to judiciary officials who say the system has imposed a hiring freeze as uncertainty looms over the appropriation figure (article available here).

Public defenders and their allies warn that the proposed allocations in the fiscal 2024 Financial Services spending bills would be devastating, causing delays in criminal cases and longer pretrial detention for their clients.

And with workload demands, some public defenders say the proposal would decrease the quality of legal representation their offices would provide to defendants too poor to hire an attorney. Federal court officials warned in July that the offices could have to lay off 9 percent or 12 percent of their staff under the House and Senate proposals, respectively.

The federal defender offices are unable to fill open positions and worried that natural attrition will leave their staff with even fewer people. That’s a particular concern at a time when their offices already operate on tight budgets and deal with increasing amounts of discovery materials, federal defenders said.