From The El Paso Times:
The Albert Armendariz Sr. Federal Courthouse in El Paso — among the busiest in Texas because of the number of immigration and drug cases — may be forced to close two days a month if the federal government continues to trim budgets in the next fiscal year, attorneys in El Paso said.
The government’s sequestration has affected civil and criminal trials, public defenders and attorneys, but continuing budget cuts in the face of immigration reform could cut courthouse jobs and increase criminal caseloads.
Maureen Scott Franco, the federal public defender for the Western District of Texas, which includes El Paso, said cuts to her office may lead to judges appointing more expensive Criminal Justice Act, or CJA, attorneys, who are usually attorneys in private practice who also make themselves available for federal appointments to cases.
“Our program throughout the U.S. is threatened to its very core if we do not get funding relief in Fiscal Year 2014. The cuts to my budget will result in fewer employees in the El Paso office and fewer cases we could handle.” Franco said the cost shifting from federal public defenders to appointed attorneys will end up costing the U.S. taxpayers “much more money.”
Because of the cuts, the Federal Public Defender’s Office has had to institute 12 furlough days, resulting in a 10 percent pay cut, and has cut funding available for CJA attorneys.
The effects of sequestration have also trickled down to legal nonprofit organizations such as Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which recently had to lay off six employees, or one-fourth of its total staff, and has had to reduce work hours from 40 hours a week to 35 hours a week.