Detroit — August 16, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Detroit bankruptcy process may face slow down due to federal sequester budget cuts


That’s okay, though. At least billionaires will still have low taxes.

Judge Gerald E. Rosen, the federal District judge appointed to be the mediator in Detroit’s bankruptcy process, sent a letter signed by 87 federal district court judges to Vice President Joe Biden asking that the Senate take action to reverse cuts in funding to the Judiciary due to the Continuing Resolution, commonly known as sequestration. According to Judge Rosen’s letter (pdf), they have slashed their operations “to the bone” and believe that their “constitutional duties, public safety, and the quality of the justice system will be profoundly compromised by further cuts.”

As a result of sequestration, the Judiciary’s budget has been reduced by nearly $350 million. Here are some of the outcomes of that massive cut:

  • Clerks and probation and pretrial services support staff downsized by as many as 1,000 staff members, a group that has already experienced a reduction of 2,100 staff members in the past two year
  • A cut of 600 probation and pretrial service officers at a time when they are experiencing record numbers of convicted offenders
  • A 30% cut in court security systems and equipment
  • $50 million cut in the Defender Services budget which covers constitutionally-mandated court representation for indigent defendants which, ironically, has caused them to hire private attorneys at a higher cost

The letter notes that the Department of Justice which sends cases to them is not having to furlough staff. So, while the DOJ’s output continues apace, the Judiciary is under increased loads and funding cuts.

According to Michigan Radio, Rosen’s staff has been cut by 63 people. These are the people who would normally be working on the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. The result will inevitably lead to a longer bankruptcy process for Detroit than would have been the case had Republicans refused to negotiate during the process that led to the sequestration cuts. As Michael Grunwald of Time magazine puts it, this is a Republican-inflicted wound:

The sequester is here, with an initial $85 billion worth of haphazard and economically destructive spending cuts, a Washington wound almost universally described as “self-inflicted.” Let’s be clearer: It’s Republican-inflicted. It is a direct result of the insistence by GOP leaders in the summer of 2011 that they would not raise the federal debt ceiling unless President Obama agreed to dramatic spending cuts. One can argue that the growth of the debt or the size of the government justified that insistence; I’d disagree. But it’s simply a fact that every budget crisis of the last two years—the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, the failure of the “supercommittee,” the fiscal cliff, and now this—stems from Republican debt-limit brinksmanship.

It’s that refusal to negotiate, fed by fears of tea party Republican primary challenges, that has brought us here. And, once again, Detroiters will pay the price for something they had nothing to do with.

[CC photo credit: J.-H. Janßen | Wikimedia Commons]