Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 10, 2013, 1:30pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- DRI: The Voice of the Defense Bar, along with its Center for Law and Public Policy, has endorsed a letter sent by the chief judges of more than 80 federal district courts last month.

In a nine-page letter drafted by Chief Judge Gerald Rosen of the Eastern District of Michigan and Chief Judge Loretta Preska of the Southern District of New York, the 87 chief judges said they are concerned about the impacts "flat funding" and sequestration are having on the judiciary.

The judges, in their Aug. 13 letter, urged Senate and House leaders to at least restore sequestration cuts.

Sequestration refers to a set of automatic federal spending cuts put into law by the Budget Control Act, signed by President Barack Obama in August 2011. The legislation raised the debt ceiling and was intended to put pressure on Congress to come up with a longer term plan for deficit reduction.

The $1.2 trillion in budget cuts, which were triggered March 1, will be spread over nine years and are equally divided between domestic and defense-related spending. The cuts are set to end in 2021.

For the remaining fiscal year 2013, the spending reductions are about $85 billion alone.

In its own letter to Vice President Joe Biden, who also serves as U.S. Senate President, DRI emphasized the growing crisis in the civil courts.

"For civil cases, which must yield precedence to criminal ones, the reductions can easily mean hardship for the litigants and an enormous increase in the costs associated with pursuing one's day in court," DRI President Mary Massaron Ross and Marc Williams, chair of DRI's Center for Law and Public Policy, said in a joint statement Monday.

The defense bar argues that the cuts are forcing the courts to decide who is provided justice and who is denied it through unreasonable delay; which essential section of the judicial structure is considered non-essential for budget purposes; which courts get physical protection and which do not; and which businesses will fail for lack of access to justice.

DRI's three-page letter, dated Friday, declared that "a more permanent solution must be found through a consensus of the three branches. Justice should not be held hostage to the political and budgetary battles between the other two branches."

Click here to read DRI's complete letter.

Ross and Williams also pledged their support "for a more permanent and inviolable source of funding for the only branch of government charged by the Constitution to provide justice for the American people."

In May, the U.S. Judicial Conference asked the White House for $73 million in emergency funding to address what it calls "critical needs" resulting from the cuts.

The emergency funding would replace only a small portion of the $350 million in funding reductions imposed upon the federal courts by sequestration.

The Senate Appropriations Committee recently approved an appropriations bill that will provide the judiciary with a $496 million increase in funding for fiscal year 2014.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill that will provide a $363 million increase in funding, also for fiscal year 2014.

The fiscal year begins Oct. 1. That's also the deadline for Congress to resolve a budget impasse or risk a government shutdown.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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