Blamin’ It on the ACA

Readers may have seen a trend over the weekend. I have reprinted several pieces written by lay people because I thought they were interesting and provocative and because they were well written. This post continues that trend but highlights a different genre, satirical musical lyrics.

Some may recall Elaine Mittleman’s guest post entitled Making a record of plea offers as a response to Frye and Lafler, a thoughtful guest post. Elaine is an experienced criminal defense lawyer with a fascinating family as shown here and here.

Over the weekend, Elaine gave me a tip about her talented sister Ann Elsner, a highly regarded scientist and professor in the School of Optometry at Indiana University. See, for example, here. As a hobby (or distraction), Professor Elsner has been taking drum lessons and writing songs. She has a group of young Bloomington musicians who help her record the songs. The professor has allowed me to print the words to a song she wrote on an airplane trip about the shutdown. Additionally, she just sent me the first cut of the song and a video recording of it showing the young musicians preparing and then performing the song. It is hyperlinked below. Regardless of your politics, the song is clever and the young musicians are certainly talented.

Blamin’ It on the ACA, 

Copyright Ann E. Elsner

Can’t understand how we shut down this way.
Don’t know what’s true, just what the pols say.
People laid off, without any pay.
Let’s get back to work, and I mean today.

But they’re blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
bla-ay-ay-ay amin’ it, (blamin’ it)
On the ACA.

That nasty compliance hangs like a sword
Over my head, it can’t be ignored.
Can’t keep part-timers till order’s restored.
Less work is done, but paperwork soared.

But they’re blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
bla-ay-ay-ay amin’ it, (blamin’ it)
On the ACA. (Oooh Yeah!)

The problems were starting before we were closed.
At 29 hours, workers got hosed.
Don’t deserve healthcare, it must be supposed.
Partial support was never proposed.

Two part time jobs could pool benefits.
The math’s not complex. Let’s use our wits.
Did you lie down and lay off? Then the shoe fits.
It’s time for some push back. Let’s stop the blitz.

But they’re blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
bla-ay-ay-ay amin’ it, (blamin’ it)
On the ACA.

What do we look like to folks overseas?
A powerful nation brought to its knees.
Not by outsiders, but the nation’s trustees.
The real reasons seem too nebulous to seize.
Can’t understand how we shut down this way.
Don’t know what’s true, just what the pols say.
People laid off, without any pay.
Let’s get back to work, and I mean today.

But they’re blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
bla-ay-ay-ay amin’ it, (blamin’ it)
On the ACA.

But they’re blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
blamin’ it, (blamin’ it)
bla-ay-ay-ay amin’ it, (blamin’ it)
On the ACA.

The first cut of the song was just recorded. Here it is on video. The song starts at 1:50.

Thanks to Elaine and Ann for brightening my day. If only Congress were composed of real people.

RGK

Let them eat cake

The Omaha World-Herald is Nebraska’s only state-wide newspaper. From an editorial perspective, the OWH slants reliably right. Thus, the editorial published in today’s newspaper was stunning.

Beginning with the words, “Let them eat cake,” the OWH criticizes federal lawmakers (specifically naming Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb.,* Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb.,** Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.***) for refusing to give back their pay while failing to enact a budget.

As I recall Tim, the Nebraska FPD’s investigator, who lost his job after 18 years because of these folks and their cohorts, and the serious harm being suffered by the federal judiciary because of the sequester and the absence of a budget, I am delighted to see that the OWH has called these politicians out. Hypocrisy should have a cost.

RGK

*Lee)

**Fisher

***Jeff

Federal courts (including FPDs and CJA counsel) to remain open for 10 business days in the event of a government shut down on October 1

Today, a press release was issued from the Administrative Office of the United States Courts stating the following:

In the event of a government shutdown on October 1, 2013, the federal Judiciary will remain open for business for approximately 10 business days. On or around October 15, 2013, the Judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised. Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts.

By the way, this is because the judiciary receives certain non-appropriated funds (think filing fees) and because there is a balance in something called “no-year appropriations.”  That money is estimated to run out in approximately 10 business days.

Additionally, the active district judges of our court also adopted a very detailed “shutdown plan” today. It is 10 pages long, single spaced.  Among other things, it addresses what happens after 10 days.

In sum, you cannot imagine the amount of work (and anxiety) that has been created because Congress merely threatens a shut down. If a shutdown occurs, this nightmare will get progressively worse.

RGK

Kopf richly deserves the snark, but don’t hurt the innocent in the process

Over at SL&P numerous commentators snarked about the supplemental appropriation request that has been submitted to Congress by the judiciary.  Sentencing Law and Policy, May 15, 2013, US Judicial Conference seeks emergency funding due to “an unprecedented financial crisis that could seriously compromise [its] Constitutional mission”

While there was grudging acknowledgment that the judiciary had budget problems, there was near universal agreement that federal judges are pompous asses, who spend huge sums of money on themselves, and they don’t deserve a dime.  The vitriol directed at federal judges was very revealing.

Take this comment, for example, by a really smart and very experienced lawyer:

I would give the money to the PD’s, who are underpaid to start with, but not to the courts. Judges are already more akin to royalty than almost any other sort of government employee. They should learn the wisdom my father taught me: “Don’t have the money? Then do without.”

 If they think this makes their lives too hard, they can resign. Replacements won’t be hard to come by. I know from having worked in White House Counsel’s Office that dozens if not hundreds of qualified lawyers would happily kill their grandmothers to get appointed to the federal bench.

Or take this follow-on comment:

As to the flushness of the judiciary: I invite you to go into any federal judge’s chambers (there’s a reason they’re called “chambers” not “offices”) and draw your own conclusions.

“Rather, it appears from the letter, it’s mostly going to FPD and probation.”

Sure, that’s what they say now.  But even if it turns out to be true, I know from considerable experience (what’s yours?) that agency “emergency” requests are, more often than not, crying wolf. To the extent there may be genuine hardship, however, that’s unfortunate, but everyday people have to learn to do with less than the ideal, and it is time for the government — judicial branch included — to learn that same unpleasant lesson.

I more than willing to plead guilty.  I am among the most arrogant of the bunch.  Indeed, I was pissed off when I lost my Article III toilet.  However, the supplemental appropriation is not intended for federal judges.  Rather, it is intended to:

*  avoid really hurting folks like my CRD or a docket clerk or a pretrial service officer or probation officer;

* avoid hurting panel attorneys by delaying payments to them (remember their fee requests are often slashed with a dull knife anyway);

* avoid further decimating the ranks of the FPDs.

I have been around here for 25 years.  I have never seen anything like the devastation that the federal judiciary is facing.  Since the account for employee salaries makes up a huge proportion of the federal judiciary’s budget, there is almost nothing that can be done to further reduce the judiciary’s operating budget.*  Please believe me, I know a lot about budgetary matters, and I am not crying wolf.

The judges will be fine, no matter what.  The rest of the judiciary, however, is at peril. Real human beings who have done nothing wrong are caught in the cross hairs of a fight they did not pick and cannot do anything to resolve.

Snark all you want about a judge like me.  I richly deserve all that you throw at me (and probably more).  But, for God’s sake, don’t give comfort to the troglodytes in Congress who see hurting federal judicial employees as something to savor.

RGK

*Remember that the total budget for the judiciary is less than 1% of the federal budget.  Because it is so small, and because the great bulk of its operational expenses is for employee payroll, sequestration has an unusually devastating impact on the judiciary.

The real face of sequester

photo

I took Tim’s photo today.  It is appended to this post.  He is the most experienced and senior investigator for the Nebraska Federal Public Defender’s office.

After 18 years of serving the impoverished clients of the FPD (and years of experience before that as a Lieutenant in a metropolitan police force), Tim’s last day is April 30, 2013. Out he goes.  Tim takes with him, and thus deprives the FPD’s clients of, the highest level of skill, wisdom, integrity and common decency that one can imagine.

This is the real face of the sequester, and it is a tragic one.

RGK

Should senior status district judges retire as a group to get the attention of Congress?

As I noted yesterday, federal district judges who take senior status work for free.  They also do a hell of lot of work.

Consider this analysis:

For the district courts, there were 678 authorized judgeships (including
temporary judgeships) and 651 judges in regular active service in December
2009. The latter accounted for 78.8% of case terminations in 2009, while
judges in senior status accounted for the other 21.2% (including 26.8% of all
trials). It would require 174 district judges in regular active service to do the
case work performed by judges in senior status in that year. Taking vacancies
into account, this translates into 147 additional authorized district court
judgeships.

Stephen B. Burbank, S. Jay Plager, Gregory Ablavasky, Leaving the Bench, 1970-2009: The Choices Federal Judges Make, What Influences Those Choices, and Their Consequence,  161 University of Pennsylvania Law Review 1, 93 (2012).

If Congress continues to starve the federal judiciary of the money it needs to perform its core functions,  perhaps a significant symbolic act is in order.  At some point, senior district judges, who obviously love the federal judiciary enough to work for free, should consider retiring as a group.   Congress would then have to find a lot of money to pay for its intransigence.   While the impact on our active judicial colleagues and our staffs would be severe, there may be no other way to truly get the attention of Congress.  I am entirely serious about this.

RGK

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