The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates Feb. 11 in Dallas approved a resolution of the New York State Bar Association warning that impending federal budget cuts threaten the national justice system.
The resolution said the automatic cuts scheduled to take effect March 1 unless averted—dubbed "sequestration"—would limit access to the federal courts by individuals and businesses and reduce federal aid for groups providing legal services to the poor.
The impending funding crisis is a continuation of the showdown over the "fiscal cliff" that President Barack Obama and leaders in Congress put off resolving at the end of 2012. "If Congress fails to avert sequestration, the operations of federal courts will be significantly curtailed," said state bar president Seymour James, Jr. attorney-in-charge of the criminal practice of the Legal Aid Society. "Courthouses would be open fewer hours, resulting in prolonged delays in civil trials."
James added in a statement that as attorneys, it is "our professional obligation to raise our voices about the devastating impact proposed cuts will have on federal courts and the Legal Services Corporation."
The resolution urged that the president and Congress preserve adequate funding for both the federal courts and the national Legal Services Corporation in 2013 and future years.