Forced furloughs for nearly 200 Arizonans - Tucson News Now

Federal public defenders face furloughs in Arizona

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The Federal Public Defenders Office for Arizona will furlough staff beginning in April because of budget cuts, possibly leading to an unlevel playing field in court, the head of the Tucson office said Monday. 

Leticia Marquez, the assistant federal public defender for Arizona, said judges, courts and prosecutors will not furlough employees or cut hours like her office.

"What impact the furloughs have remains to be seen," she said. "However, it makes the playing field uneven. We hope we can continue to provide quality representation to the indigent community in Arizona." 

The 75-member Tucson staff and 183 total employees in Arizona will have to take one furlough day every two weeks, running through September, Marquez said.

The office will remain open five days a week, with half of the staff taking furlough every other Friday.

The sequestration cuts come after the Tucson office was forced to lay off 10 employees Feb. 12.

Legal representation is a constitutional right under a 1963 Supreme Court ruling. A lack of public defenders will adversely affect the process, she said.

"That's why we decided to keep the office open every Friday, instead of closing it on Fridays. We are committed to representing our indigent defendants."

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