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Federal Defenders Face Pay Cut

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WASHINGTON -- The federal courts say that private lawyers paid to act as federal public defenders will have their salaries slashed as part of an attempt to survive government cost-cutting measures.

The Judicial Conference of the United States announced Monday that it would reduce by $15 an hour the pay of "panel attorneys." The year-long cuts start in September.

More than 10,000 lawyers serve as panel attorneys, representing defendants financially unable to retain counsel in federal criminal proceedings. The panel attorneys, along with federal public defenders, represent the vast majority of people prosecuted in the federal courts.

The pay for panel attorneys will drop from $125 per hour in non-capital cases to $110. Pay will drop from a maximum of $179 per hour for capital cases to $164.

In the search for budget savings, the conference decided against cutting staffing at the federal public defender's office. But savings had to come from somewhere, said William B. Traxler Jr., chairman of the Conference's executive committee.

The change "was necessary to avoid permanent damage to the federal defender program," he said in a Friday letter.

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