U.S. District Judge Michael Davis, chief federal judge in Minnesota, has expressed deep concern about the impact that sequestration will have on the U.S. judiciary, including Minnesota.
"The cuts to the judiciary are going to change the administration of justice in the United States," Davis warned in an interview.
While no furloughs in Minnesota courts have been announced, other court districts around the country have reported major reductions. In the Central District of California, which covers Los Angeles, staff are being furloughed and court services will be reduced on seven Fridays from April through August. The courthouses will be open, but the clerk’s office will be closed, except for the criminal intake section and specified emergency civil filings.
"When I see that it happens to the Central District of California, I know that more than likely it will spread across the country," Davis said.
Katherian Roe, chief federal public defender in Minnesota, said her office has enough funds to make it through the fiscal year which ends in October without any layoffs or furloughs.
But she said that Federal Office of Defender Services may consider taking back funds currently allocated to Minnesota to help offices that are in worse shape. "That would create a situation where0 we would not have adequate funding to staff our office," she said.
Davis said he will be meeting with the local federal defenders office this week. He said that without an "appropriate level" of funding for both the judiciary and the federal defenders office "the rule of law which we hold so sacred will vanish."
Federal court cutbacks, including, in some cases, furloughs, are going into effect in the Northern District of California, Colorado, Delaware, the Western District of New York, the Eastern District of Misouri, Utah and the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, according to "The Third Branch News," a U.S. Judiciary on-line newsletter, published Tuesday.
Jeanne Cooney, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota, said that if the sequestration "goes much longer, we may have some major cuts, which may include furloughs. We are waiting for direction from the U.S. Attorney General’s office," she said. "If there are furloughs, it will include attorneys and staff."
Sharon Lubinski, the U.S. Marshal in Minnesota, said she expects a decision this month from the Justice Department on whether U.S. Marshals will face furloughs. Furloughs have been "seriously discussed," she said.
If furloughs occur "it will be the same across the board" for marshal’s offices around the country, said Lubinski.