Brennan Center for Justice
May 6, 2013
A remarkable thing happened on Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee. A federal trial judge there, Todd J. Campbell, issued two orders in a criminal case candidly confronted the "sequester's" impact on the rule of law. "The Act was passed by the Legislative and Executive branches," Judge Campbell wrote in one of the orders, "but it significantly negatively impacts the Judicial branch and the administration of criminal Justice."
At issue in the case of United States v. Lee was whether the courts could force a criminal defendant to go to trial while his federal public defender was being furloughed as a result of budget cuts required under the sequester. "It would be potentially unfair and arguably contrary to the spirit of the right to counsel (6th Amendment) and Due Process (5th Amendment)," Judge Campbell wrote, to "compel Defendant Lee to go to trial under these circumstances." In the other order, Judge Campbell found a creative way to ensure the defendant would be able to obtain a transcript of his first trial - which resulted in a hung jury - to prepare for his second trial. The sequester cuts down to that level of the legal system.
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