The United States attorney’s office in Manhattan faces budget cuts and hiring freezes that Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, told a group of attorneys on Monday December 2 could effectively place his office in a full on crisis mode when these cuts become effective.
“Today, in New York City, while we continue to have a gang problem, we do not have the level of murder and mayhem that so plagues Chicago that its mayor is practically begging for federal funds and federal help,” Bharara said, according to the New York Times. “Do we want tomorrow’s New York to look like today’s Chicago? I don’t think we do.”
Bharara and other court and bar figures appeared at a public hearing on Monday. The hearing was organized by the New York County Lawyers’ Association to focus on the impact budget cuts have on the justice system. Other witnesses who testified at the hearing included the chief judges of the city’s federal courts; Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn; and David E. Patton, the federal public defender, the New York Times reported.
According to the Times, Bharara’s office has 210 assistant United States attorneys assigned to criminal and civil cases. While that may seem to be a high number it is nearly 20 fewer U.S. attorneys than it had two years ago, the Times reported. In addition, the office also loses about 22 attorneys each year and they are not replaced, so the number of attorneys will continue to drop.
At the hearing Bharara testified that evidence has proven that any funds spent on his office would ultimately “generate far more than it would cost.” To support this statement he referenced a plea deal his office struck with hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors last month. In the deal, the fund agreed to pay $1.2 billion to the government, which he stated is 24 times his office’s annual $50 million budget.
The financial constraints of the legal system is not a new issue: A Manhattan judge told a district court in Manhattan last week that her court had come within one day of being unable to pay jurors for their service, which would have resulted in a suspension of jury trials, according to the Times.