Individuals in New York detention centers are just a fraction of the growing number of defendants across the country who are being adversely affected by President Trump’s insistence that a funding bill include $5.7 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. While courts have managed to extend funding for federal defender agencies a week at a time, the funding is not expected to last past Feb. 1. Public defenders and investigators who are members of Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panels—groups of court-approved attorneys who are appointed on a rotating basis to represent people in criminal cases—are working without pay. So are lawyers with Washington, D.C.’s Public Defender Service.
“Members of the CJA panel and my office are essential to the proper functioning of the Sixth Amendment,” Jason Hawkins, the federal public defender for the Northern District of Texas, told The Appeal in an email. “We will continue to investigate our cases, appear in court, and defend our client [sic] against the awesome power of the federal government. Yet we will not be paid.”
Hawkins and other federal public defenders say they are concerned that many of their clients will be held in custody for longer than necessary.
“The Sixth Amendment doesn’t shut down when the government does,” he said.
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