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Cuts to Public Defender’s Office Could Cost Taxpayers More

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File photo of a judge's gavel. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

File photo of a judge’s gavel. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - Among those feeling the pinch of sequestration is the Federal Public Defender’s Office in St. Louis.

Because of the sequester cuts, the local office has had to cancel all training and equipment purchases and its attorneys have had to take ten furlough days thus far.

Federal Public Defender Lee Lawless says that may reduce spending at their end but the delays they cause keep suspects waiting in jail cells paid for by the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

“If we have to, say, continue a date to dispose of a case because we need more time to investigate it or if we need to continue a sentencing because we haven’t had the time to get all the information together that we think we need, it’s going to mean additional days that the marshals have to pay,” Lawless explains.

The cuts also force more cases to be assigned to private attorneys which, while their pay has been cut, still cost the government more than public defenders.

“So while we might be cutting the budget for the Federal Defender Office, the overall bill would not be going down, it would be going up,” Lawless explains.

Lawless says the cuts could have a long-term impact, making it harder to attract top attorneys to the office.

“Who knows next year whether you’ll have a job so why would someone necessarily want to relocate, give up a position that they have, giving the uncertainly that has been created?”

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