The Edmond Sun

Local News

February 27, 2013

Courts will feel sequestration’s impact

OKLA. CITY — Choices that Congress make regarding sequestration will impact local choices on how to supervise criminal offenders and defendants, said Steve Skinner, chief U.S. probation officer.

Many criminal trials could be terminated in the U.S. if Congress does not act to end sequestration because many practitioners involved in federal trials would not be paid, according to the Federal Bar Association.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate must reach an agreement to avoid across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration that will otherwise take effect Friday.

The federal court community consists of Federal District Court, Federal Bankruptcy Court, U.S Probation, the federal defender’s office, judges and staff members, said Grant Price, court clerk for the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Oklahoma City. Price said his office already has reduced its staff in anticipation of sequestration.

“I think everybody is reluctant to under react and over react,” federal defender Susan Otto told The Edmond Sun. “One of the things I can’t do is I can’t spend money I don’t have. I can’t engage in deficit.”

The federal judiciary is not exempt from sequestration, Otto said. Sequestration would impact funds for the public defense organizations, community defense organizations and the criminal justice act panel attorneys.

Sequestration would mandate $85 billion of federal cuts over the next seven months, said Congressman James Lankford, R-Edmond. Sequestration ultimately would reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion in a 10-year period.

“The dire warning they continue to put out that everything shuts down if they don’t get all the funding they have is not accurate based on the amount of cuts that they’re actually experiencing in the reduction of spending,” Lankford said.

Civil jury trials could be suspended by federal judges resulting from jury fee account reductions if across-the-board spending occurs, according to FBA. Federal courts would need to cut 36 percent of its workforce, a figure that would include 7,800 court workers and more than 450 court security officers, according to the FBA.

“If I don’t have sufficient resources to meet payroll, there will be furloughs,” Otto said. “… I don’t have excess people to cut.”

Delays in court proceedings would occur with procedures in court clerk’s offices being reduced, according to FBA.

“The federal courts would be unable to properly supervise thousands of persons under pretrial release and convicted felons released from federal prisons, thus compromising public safety,” according to the report.

Meanwhile the nation is $16 trillion in debt. Federal spending has increased 40 percent in the last five years

“This is a 2.5 percent cut on a 40 percent increase,” Lankford said. So if you can look back and say ‘Five years ago, did all those things occur? Did we have security in airports? Did we have functioning courts?’” Lankford said. “Yes, we did.”

Sequestration would return federal government to the same funding status of five years ago, Lankford said.

There are more case-load supervision cases today than in 2006, Skinner said. Simple inflation makes it cost more to provide treatment services for sex offenders and other criminals in the community, Skinner said.

“You’ll have to make a lot of choices of which offenders you give most attention to,” Skinner said. “You’re going to definitely see the high risk offender. That’s where you’re going to focus and try to see the other ones you can to the extent of what’s left.”

Individual court units can do everything they can to minimize the impact on individual cases and clients depending on how profound the final reduction is, Otto said.

“But if court is not open, and for example, a chief judge in this district would say, ‘I’m going to close the court house every third Friday’ for whatever might happen — any day the court’s not in business is a day when a person being held in custody, who should appear in front of a magistrate — that would have to be deferred.”

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has invited congressional leaders to the White House on Friday in a last-minute attempt to reach an agreement.

Sequestration law is written so that Congress determines how much to reduce federal spending, Lankford said. The Obama administration oversees the cuts.

Lankford said the House is working on legislation to ensure a reasonable maximum flexibility funds federal accounts so the Obama administration can continue to decide how to cut spending. For example, the administration makes cuts to the military assuming there will be no reductions in military pay.

“We’re trying to allow them to make decisions on some items, not all, so they can prioritize the most important places to do their spending,” Lankford said.

In May the House passed a bill to replace the sequester with long-term reforms. So far the Senate has never answered the bill, Lankford said. The Senate has insisted that the House passes more favorable legislation. Compromise is impossible if the Senate never passes a bill, Lankford said.

“We’re stuck. There’s nothing we can do. They feel like they have good political points by blaming it on us, but we have done all we can do in the House by passing a replacement for sequester twice, to reduce spending in a more logical, surgical way.”

The sequestration makes a federal budget that wasn’t the best a lot worse for federal courts, Skinner said.

TO LEARN MORE about sequestration and federal courts, go to

Text Only
Local News
  • Oak Tree Official offers glowing update on Senior Open

    An official who has been in charge of tournaments since 2001 said the 2014 U.S. Senior Open is probably the best city event partnership he has seen.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Edmond soldier settles in housing benefits case

    U.S. Attorney Sanford C. Coats said Thursday a U.S. Army reserve soldier from Edmond has agreed to pay the government $20,000 to settle civil claims related to obtaining fraudulent housing benefits.

    April 17, 2014

  • Stevenson 1 Oklahoman returns home focused on pro-gay agenda

    Troy Stevenson remembers the day when football players discovered him and his boyfriend holding hands behind an Edmond high school. After they had been chased off school property, Stevenson, called to check on his boyfriend.
    “He was in hysterics,” Stevenson said. “… Like me, I thought he was scared. Did people see us? What would people think?”

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Lawn Experts’ tips can help your lawn bounce back

    Chances are your lawn is looking a bit bedraggled after this rough winter.
    That’s not surprising. Between brutally cold temperatures and drying winds, turf took a beating this year.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gracelawn grows larger

    The Edmond City Council voted 5-0 in favor of the city purchasing 20.5 acres of land immediately to the north of Gracelawn Cemetery. Purchasing the property is needed for future expansion of the cemetery, Mayor Charles Lamb, said.
    Gracelawn Cemetery is owned and operated by the city and is located on the northwest corner of Danforth and Boulevard.

    April 17, 2014

  • Warmth needed to grow tomatoes

    The time for those growing tomatoes in their garden is when the soil temperature is above 60°F and fear of frost has past. We are generally safe from frosts after April 5.  However, frosts have occurred as late as May 1 in the Oklahoma City area. If you planted your tomatoes on or before April 5 last year you would have covered them several times as there were several late frosts. If you plant early, be ready to cover your plants during nighttime frosts.

    April 17, 2014

  • Debate Senate hopefuls meet in first debate

     Accountability to the American people and the $17.5 trillion debt continues to be a major issue in the race for U.S. Senate office being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.
    The Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee hosted a debate Wednesday for three of the seven Republicans running for the U.S. Senate seat that is being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Oklahoma City FC invites fans to design club scarf

    Oklahoma’s top-tier soccer club, Oklahoma City FC, invites soccer fanatics across Oklahoma to be a part of its future by designing its scarf.
    Scarves are a tradition among soccer clubs and are typically a team’s most recognizable accessory. Scarves are a matter of pride for hard-core supporters and feature team colors, logo and inspiring slogans. Scarves are a part of a team’s identity.

    April 16, 2014

  • MS_injection well.jpg Agency clarifies earthquake-related misinformation

    A state agency says misinformation related to the debate about the cause of more earthquakes across Central Oklahoma includes oil well types, well numbers and injection pressure.
    The Prague sequence of 2011 along the Wilzetta Fault zone included a significant foreshock, a main shock of magnitude 5.7 and numerous aftershocks. It has been suggested that this sequence represents tremors triggered by fluid injection.
    More recently, earthquakes have been recorded in the vicinity of Jones, Arcadia Lake, Edmond, Guthrie, Langston and Crescent. Regulators and scientists are working together to better understand what’s causing all the shaking.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sheriff seeks items for agency history project

    If you have historic pictures or artifacts related to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, the agency is asking the public to share them.
    “The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is working on a history project. If you, your family, friends or acquaintances have any old photos or artifacts related to the OCSO we would love to have them or a digital copy,” said Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel.

    April 16, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Video
Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid" Kate and Will Land in Oz O’Reilly Launches Preemptive Strike Against CBS Pixar Unveils Easter Eggs From its Biggest Movies Baby Sloths Squeak for Their Cuddle Partners in Adorable Video

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results