WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) today called for his colleagues to reject cuts to the Federal Public Defenders budget, which would undermine the justice system and threaten legal protections. His remarks came during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting to advance the nomination of Federal Public Defender Richard Federico, who was nominated by President Biden to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.
“I just want to take a moment to speak about [Mr. Federico] and about the importance of the public defense budget. He’s a public defender, as you know, and he before that served as a prosecutor and defense attorney in the Navy. I believe he is ready very much to serve as a circuit judge. But he has also done extraordinary work as a public defender, and I was particularly moved by his statement: ‘What an amazing country we live in, that no matter who you are, what you’re charged with, not only do we give that person, a lawyer, but we give that lawyer the professional charge, that you will do your best within the bounds of the law to represent them. That’s a value that is enshrined within our constitution that I believe we should all cherish. And we should all respect because it makes all of us more free.’ An eloquent statement from the Federal Public Defender,” said Sen. Welch.
“I’m concerned, as you’ve heard me say before, that there’s a proposed budget cut of 9-12% in the appropriations bill for federal defense. And this will result in higher cost, not lower cost. And it will compromise the capacity of us to live up to that spirit and obligation to make certain everybody has competent counsel. So, my hope is that all of my colleagues will join in opposing those cuts so that we can maintain that commitment in the judicial system to vigorous advocacy on both sides—prosecutors and defense,” Sen. Welch concluded.
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Senator Welch, the Senate’s only former Public Defender, has voiced his strong opposition to proposed cuts to the federal defender budget, warning that cutting the budget for this critical program would threaten the constitutional right to an effective lawyer, as well as the integrity of judicial system.