Essential Paralegals

Paralegals in U.S. Attorneys’ offices are not classified as “essential” for purposes of the Anti-Deficiency Act. “Basically, the Anti-Deficiency Act says a federal entity like the judiciary can’t spend money it doesn’t have. There are two exceptions and roughly speaking those exceptions are these: (1) money can be spent to protect life or property in an emergency and (2) money can be spent if necessary to further Constitutional and statutory commands that require action. It is also very important to realize that federal employees are subject to criminal penalties if they violate the Act.” R.G. Kopf, Federal Judge, “District of Nebraska’s “shutdown” plan,Hercules and the Umpire. However, the federal government shutdown has reminded U.S. Attorneys around the country just how essential paralegals are. reports, for example, on the “mess” in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office, noting

Prosecutions in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan have been thrown into disarray, according to Lorin Reisner, the chief of the office’s criminal division. “From our perspective, it’s a mess,” Reisner said at a panel discussion on Tuesday. Bloomberg covered her remarks. “We have 10 trials going on in the criminal division,” Reisner said, “and I spent half of yesterday making sure the paralegals who are working on those cases can continue working on those cases, or that we have others who can assist with those trials. … It’s been quite a mess from an administrative and support staff perspective.”

Attorney General Holder is correct in stating that the shut down is “unnecessary,” but as this article illustrates, paralegals are a necessary part of our legal system. Their importance will only continue to grow.

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