Federal courts again face the prospect of “devastating” budget cuts affecting both individual and business litigants if Congress allows re-implementation of “the Sequester” across-the-board cuts to the 2016 federal budget, warn the presidents of 17 bar associations in New York.
The federal government’s 2016 fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, 2015.
In a September 2 letter to members of the New York Congressional Delegation, the bar leaders note that the Budget Control Act of 2011 will impose severe automatic cuts on the courts and other federal operations unless Congress enacts a budget within spending caps. Such a sequester was imposed for nine months during 2013.
The letter calls upon Congress to ensure the federal court system remains properly funded and to enact a budget that avoids the sequester.
“The functioning of our courts was seriously undermined by the sequester in 2013 and they have still not fully recovered,” the letter says. “We cannot afford a repetition of the 2013 underfunding which resulted in extensive case delays, reduced security and inadequate personnel to carry out necessary day-to-day operations.”
In 2014 testimony before Congress, federal Judge Julia Gibbons, chair of the budget committee of the U.S. Judicial Conference, spoke of the impact of the nearly $350 million sequestration cuts on the federal court system. “Our fears were realized,” she said.
“In New York, the 2013 disruption in the federal courts was, and would be again, devastating,” states the bar leaders’ letter. It notes that all four federal district courts in New York are categorized as “congested courts,” meaning their caseloads exceed average caseloads for federal courts elsewhere in the nation.” Therefore the cuts disproportionately impact New York,” it says.
“New York’s individuals and businesses would suffer dramatically from re-implementation of the sequester,” it continues. “Inadequate court funding also tarnishes New York's status as the gold standard for businesses engaged in international transactions by diminishing the efficiency and predictability of our judiciary.
“Our courts are one of the pillars of our society, serving all who need their assistance to resolve matters, small and large, for individuals and business,” the letter concludes, urging lawmakers to “take all necessary steps to avoid another crisis-by-sequester in our court system.”
The letter, drafted by New York State Bar Association President David P. Miranda, was signed by him and the presidents of local and specialty bar associations across the state. They are:
· Janet M. Silver, Albany County Bar Association;
· Kevin W. Spitler, Bar Association of Erie County;
· Lester C. Rodriques, Bronx County Bar Association;
· Arthur L. Aidala, Brooklyn Bar Association;
· Francis Paul Battisti, Broome County Bar Association;
· Neil J. Rowe, Monroe County Bar Association;
· Debra L. Raskin, New York City Bar Association;
· Carol A. Sigmond, New York County Lawyers’ Association;
· Joseph P. Giruzzi, Oneida County Bar;
· Jean Marie Westlake, Onondaga County Bar Association;
· Steven J. Eisman, Nassau County Bar Association;
· David P. Miranda, New York State Bar Association;
· Betty Lugo, Puerto Rican Bar Association;
· Paul E. Kerson, Queens County Bar Association;
· Daniel C. Marotta, Richmond County Bar Association;
· Donna England, Suffolk County Bar Association;
· P. Daniel Hollis, III, Westchester County Bar; and
· Andrea F. Composto, Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York.
Full text of the sequestration letter to the New York Congressional delegation is available at http://www.nysba.org/LettertoCongressSept2015/.
The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.
Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services