The President’s proposed budget for FY 2014 recommends $1.068 billion for defender services, the account that funds the operation of the federal public defender and community defender organizations, and compensation, reimbursements, and expenses of private panel attorneys appointed by federal courts to serve as defense counsel to indigent individuals. The program is largely reactive – it has no control over the number and nature of cases it must defend against. The caseload is driven entirely by the prosecutorial policies and practices of the U. S. department of Justice and its 93 United States Attorneys. Funding for FY 2013 was continued at the FY 2012 level of $1.031 billion under successive continuing resolutions that were enacted to fund federal programs through September 2013, as Congress was unable to finalize a regular appropriations process for the current year. The Judiciary has requested a 3.0 percent increase to $1.07 billion for FY 2014 for defender services, based on an increase in caseload to handle an estimated 209,000 representations. The request provides a small cost-of-living adjustment to the panel attorney non-capital rate (from $125 to $126 per hour) and capital rate (from $178 to $180 per hour). The request includes no program increases. The request also seeks restoration of a portion of sequestration cut funding, including: $15.1 million for federal defender offices to restore staff and time lost through furloughs and layoffs; $55.1 million to restore funds for panel attorney payments, including $27.7 million to make payments to panel attorneys unpaid from FY 2013 and $27.4 million to prevent deferral of payments in FY 2014; and $11.9 million for federal defender offices to restore funding for non-salary accounts used for expert witnesses and for other costs of representation.
Defender services like other discretionary federal spending programs were subject to sequestration cuts. The sequestration cut for FY 2013 was 5.0 percent of total authorized spending, amounting to $52 million. Between October 2012 and April 2013, Federal Defender Organizations (FDO) downsized by 113 employees and other employees were furloughed. The House Appropriations Committee approved H.R. 2786, its FY 2014 appropriations bill for Financial Services and General Government Operations Act, on July 17, 2013. It included $1.065 billion for federal defender services, $26 million more that the final FY 2013 appropriated level and $77 million more that the FY 2013 sequestered amount. On July 25, 2013, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its bill, S. 1371, with an appropriation level of $1.068 billion for federal defender services, a three percent increase over its final FY 2013 funding.
On October 1, 2013, after failing to reach agreement on appropriations measures to fund the federal government beyond the September 30 end of the fiscal year, the federal government went into a “shut down” of most activities ending on October 16 when a deal to temporarily fund federal activities was reached by Congressional negotiators and passed by both the House and Senate. On October 17, President Obama signed P.L. 113-46, a “continuing resolution” measure that continues most of the federal government at FY 2013 sequestration levels through January 15, 2014. The continuing resolution included an increase from Fy 2013 of $26 million to pay court-appointed defenders owed money for services rendered during the last two weeks of FY 2013 (when such payments were suspended.