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State Bar President calls Gov’t Shutdown a constitutional crisis as more courts close

January 22, 2019 By Rob Abruzzese Brooklyn Daily Eagle

As the shutdown of the federal government continues with no end in sight, the president of the New York State Bar Association issued a statement on Monday that blasted the shutdown as a “dereliction of duty” and a “constitutional crisis.”

“The continuing government shutdown has become a constitutional crisis as federal courts across the country have cut back operations severely and, by later this week, will be forced to shut down entirely,” said Michael Miller, president of NYSBA.

“It is truly a dereliction of duty to have allowed a political fight to escalate to the point that essential parts of our judicial system — under the Constitution, a co-equal branch of government — are unable to serve the American people,” Miller continued. “Furthermore, it is a violation of the oath of office taken by the president and members of Congress to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Many federal courts around the country have remained open but have been forced to cut back. That means non-essential employees are being furloughed and many courts have stopped hearing civil cases.

The Eastern District of New York, located in Downtown Brooklyn, has remained open and is hearing both criminal and civil cases. However, they too have been operating with cutbacks.

According to an administrative order issued by Hon. Dora Irizarry, chief judge of EDNY, at the start of the shutdown, the court is operating with travel restrictions, a hiring freeze, no expenditures are allowed to be made without authorization of the chief judge, and staff are only performing essential functions.

The problem is that many employees are not receiving paychecks and those who are may see their last paycheck for the foreseeable future on Feb. 8, which may force even more court employees to miss work as they face the financial implications of going more than a month without a paycheck.

“The federal courts supervise nearly a quarter of a million probationers and defendants awaiting trial,” Miller said. “The shutdown will diminish the number of pretrial service and probation officers available to supervise and support probationers released into the community and will surely impact the quality of supervision of accused pretrial defendants released on bail.

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“On behalf of the State Bar Association’s more than 70,000 members, we call on the Congress and the president to take any and all steps necessary to provide the resources necessary to keep the courts open and the justice system functioning,” Miller concluded.

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