American Bar Association

ABA President Silkenat condemns shutdown, says Congress should 'end the scorched-earth tactics'

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ABA President James R. Silkenat is condemning the government shutdown caused by the budget impasse in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“This government shutdown is a historic failure that imperils justice in our country,” he said. “Congress has practically abdicated its constitutional responsibility to provide a budget for the government. It is time to end the scorched-earth tactics and send a budget to the president.”

The New York Times and the Washington Post have stories on the shutdown set in motion by House attempts to link government financing with concessions in the Obama administration’s health care law. About 800,000 federal workers will be furloughed and most federal offices will close along with national parks and museums. A measure signed by the president does allow the military to receive paychecks.

In the statement, Silkenat said courts are already suffering because of sequestration. “The political brinksmanship that brought our government to a standstill reflects the same intransigence and unwillingness to compromise that imposed sequestration on our national government and hardships on many who contract with, work for or receive certain nonentitlement benefits from the federal government,” he said. “Federal courts already face staff reductions and programmatic cuts that threaten public safety. The failure to reach accord on a continuing resolution to fund the government has also scuttled both chambers’ attempts to add extra funding to pay for indigent defense representation.”

Federal courts can stay open for 10 days after the shutdown, and some essential court functions will continue after that, he said. “Nonetheless, our citizens’ access to justice through the federal courts and the Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial will increasingly be in jeopardy. The third branch of government faces dire straits.”

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