Friday, June 14, 2013

No justice?

    The effects of across-the-board federal budget cuts called “sequestration” go on even though the public hubbub surrounding them has died down. They are slicing the nation’s social and political fabric and threatening to leave it in tatters.
    The U.S. Constitution set out the blueprint for the judicial branch of government and the legal system in place today. It also set out the requirement that the trial of all crimes, except impeachment, is to be by jury. It didn’t call for trial by monarch or trial by mob—even though it was clear even then that such trials would be a whole lot cheaper than a trial by jury in a court with a trained judge presiding.
    The founders knew justice wouldn’t come cheap. Their successors in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives today have lost their grip on that fact.
    This week, attorneys appointed by the U.S. District Court to defend a man facing terrorism-related charges in Idaho and Utah asked to be dismissed from the case because the budget for the Federal Defenders Services of Idaho is facing budget cuts of up to 24 percent. They said the cuts have depleted funds for expert witnesses and reduced personnel and salaries.
    They said the man’s defense would drain funds needed to meet their mandate to handle 75 percent of federal cases in Idaho in which defendants can’t afford their own lawyers. They said they risked running out of funds for the case, which would harm the defendant. They asked the judge to transfer the case to another publicly funded pool of attorneys.
    And what of justice? Have we become a nation too poor for justice or just a nation with representatives so lazy, so stingy and too stupid to figure out how to pay for it? For justice delayed is justice denied.

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