Chief judges address impact of sequestration in letter to Congress

Editor’s note: Click here to view the letter from the chief judges to members of Congress.

Online Staff Report

CHICAGO — Aug. 15, Chief Judge Ruben Castillo announced he joined with other chief U.S. District judges in writing to the Congressional leadership to alert them as to the impact of sequestration on the judiciary.

The joint letters were sent to the ranking members of Congress and signed by the chief judges of 87 federal district courts, expressing grave concerns about the flat funding of the judiciary for the past few years and the subsequent sequestration in 2013.

The letter outlines the impact of the severe cuts that have already been put in place and warns Congress of the potential public safety risks.

In discussing the letter to Congress, Chief Judge Castillo explained that, “the citizens of the Northern District of Illinois are directly impacted by the severe cuts. Because of this impact, I am open to meeting with the members of the Illinois congressional delegation to discuss the importance of the federal Judiciary to the citizens of their districts.”

The federal judiciary is the third branch of government, and the overall budget for the third branch is less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget,” Chief Judge Castillo continued. “Each year, our district helps to bring in more fines and settlements to the federal treasury than our costs of operation. We operate in the black while providing a direct public benefit by resolving civil and criminal disputes in an efficient manner.”

The letter warns that any further cuts to the judiciary would directly affect its ability to carry out its constitutional and statutory duties. The letter outlined the impact of the severe cuts that have already been put into place and warns Congress of the potential public safety risks.

One of the emergency measures that may be put in place is the upcoming delay of payments to the private panel attorneys who are appointed to represent criminal defendants who lack the financial resources to hire an attorney.

Background on the Northern District of Illinois

With its 22 authorized district judgeships, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois is the third-largest district court in the nation. The court’s current caseload includes more than 12,000 new civil cases filed and more than 900 new felony criminal defendants annually.

The Northern District of Illinois stretches across 18 counties from the southernmost point in La Salle County to the westernmost point in Jo Daviess County at the Iowa border, an area of nearly 10,100 square miles, with a total population of nearly 9.3 million people. These counties are divided into the Eastern and Western divisions of the Northern District of Illinois with courthouses in Chicago and Rockford.

Posted Aug. 15, 2013

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