Press Release

After Welch-led Push, Federal Public Defender Layoffs Avoided  

Mar 25, 2024

Welch, the Senate’s only former Public Defender, spoke on the Senate Floor last week on the successful push to avoid the budget shortfall of federal public defenders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-Vt.) on Thursday took to the Senate Floor to celebrate his successful fight to include additional funding to support the Federal Public Defender program in the appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024, which was passed by Congress last week. This funding will help the Federal Public Defenders avoid layoffs and end a hiring freeze. Senator Welch also addressed the important role public defenders play in promoting the rule of law and supporting the Constitution. His advocacy will continue in the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 budget to provide more resources to the understaffed organization.  

“For months I have been talking to many of my colleagues, highlighting that there was a funding shortfall facing Federal Public Defenders. Six months ago, it looked like federal defender offices across the country were going to 10% personnel cuts. That’s very painful cuts, and really was going to affect the quality of representation,” said Senator Welch.  

“Instead, Congress acted, and Congress has basically corrected the shortfall in the final appropriations package released today. I understand that these federal funding levels will allow the Federal Defenders to avoid layoffs this year and end what had been a proposed and very harsh hiring freeze. I’m so grateful,” continued Welch.  

Read and download his full remarks here.  

Watch his remarks here:  

This month, Senator Welch led every Senate Judiciary Democrat in sending a letter to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts urging the office to give appropriate consideration to the funding of the Federal Public Defender program in the Office’s upcoming budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2025. The letter comes as Federal Defenders face a budget shortfall in the FY24 budget cycle caused by the Administrative Office’s accounting decisions.  

In October, Senator Welch led 22 of his colleagues, including every Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat, in sending a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders emphasizing the importance of bipartisan collaboration to safeguard our Federal Defenders’ resources. The Senators urged that adequate funding be provided for Defender Services, which funds the federal public defender program, in both chambers’ Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) funding bills.