Federal Shutdown Hindering Civil Suits and Criminal Prosecutions



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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, October 03, 2013

 

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District is Ben Wagner.  He says says 38-percent of his staff have been ordered to stay home. 

"A lot of our cases are complex, document-intensive cases,” he says.  “There's a lot of technological work that needs to be done to generate discovery to send out to defense attorneys, to prepare filings, to generate grand jury subpoenas for investigations, to receive and catalog and review documents that come in."

Wagner says his office is trying to prosecute cases while investigators, support staff and federally-employed witnesses are prohibited by federal law from working. 

"It's certainly sort of creating a situation in which we are going into these cases with one hand tied behind our back,” he says. “It's a much more dramatic impact. On the civil side, not only support staff but most of our lawyers are furloughed."

He says it is likely those who are working in his office will be paid when a spending bill is passed. 

Wagner says civil cases brought against the government that it loses can't be settled.  Nor can the government collect the tens of millions of dollars each year it typically wins in the civil cases it files.

Civil cases are already being delayed.  Criminal trials are still on schedule for now.

Wagner says courts in the federal system have enough money from other funding sources to last another week at current staffing levels.

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