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Kennedy, Breyer warn that court budget cuts could have costly impact

Posted Mar 15, 2013 7:39 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Justices Anthony M. Kennedy and Stephen G. Breyer told a House appropriations subcommittee on Thursday that sequestration could have a serious impact on lower federal courts.

The justices appeared before the subcommittee to present the Supreme Court’s $86.5 million budget, according to The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times and Reuters. The proposed budget for Supreme Court operations has dropped by 3 percent, but the amount designated for court renovation and repair increased slightly, the BLT says. Overall, the proposed budget is about $3 million higher than the current fiscal year funding, Reuters says.

The justices said sequestration would affect the Supreme Court’s work over the long term, but lower courts would face the most serious problems. If automatic spending cuts continue, the budget for federal courts would drop by about 5 percent, Reuters says, citing information from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Kennedy said the cuts could delay bankruptcy proceedings and civil trials, which would harm the economy. He also said cuts could affect the budget for supervision of criminal offenders. "This is absolutely urgent for the safety of society," he said. Kennedy and Breyer also warned of cuts in the public defender program.

Breyer said PD cuts could mean "you will get the wrong person convicted.” The appeals could cost more than paying for "a decent lawyer in the first place," Breyer said.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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