Opinion: Federal PD Warns of Sequester Impact

Federal public defender Beth Ford writes in Knoxnews.com over the weekend that all federal defender offices have had their budgets cut by more than 10 percent and most will furlough staff from 13 to more than 30 days because of the sequester. She argues that the impact of the cuts on the courts and Americans’ constitutional rights are devastating. For the courts, she predicts the effect will include a delay in cases, new ineffective assistance of counsel claims, convictions set aside and creation of an uneven playing field between prosecutors and defenders, who no longer will be able to hire their own experts. While the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon vs. Wainwright, Ford warns that if these predictions prove true, Gideon “will become just another empty promise.”