The public defender’s office in Washington, D.C., is expected to receive nearly $700 million in federal funds over the next two years to help it hire more lawyers and fill the ranks of its workforce, according to a memorandum obtained by CNN.
The public defender has struggled to fill more than 30 vacancies, the memo said.
The office, which has nearly 1,400 attorneys, has been under budget cuts that have led to the layoffs of about 2,000 attorneys.
“The public defenders office has struggled since 2015 to hire additional lawyers, and this budget increase will provide additional funding to help this office continue to meet the demands of its clients,” the memo says.
The attorney general’s office also is expected receive $836.7 million in funding over the same period, the letter says.
That money is expected “to fund the hiring of additional public defender staff, support the development of an additional program to provide support to public defenders, support training for public defender attorneys, and to support ongoing and new investigative capabilities,” the letter said.
“As we look ahead to the new year, I encourage all of you to take action and use your financial means to help the public defender office in its fight to ensure that every American has a right to defend themselves, their families, and their communities,” Justice Department Inspector General Richard Griffin wrote in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Department of Justice, and the Office of the Public Defender.
The memo comes amid an ongoing effort to reform the system, including hiring more prosecutors, making it easier to bring civil suits and improving access to information.
The public defenders are the government’s most powerful legal defense lawyers.
Public defenders have been in high demand in the last several years as the Trump administration seeks to crack down on violent crime and improve public safety.
The Trump administration has also pushed for the abolition of the office and for a more limited role for prosecutors in civil litigation.
“We’ve seen our attorneys and public defenders working incredibly hard in these difficult times,” the president told reporters last month.
“We’re going to keep fighting and we’re going a long way to making sure that the public defenders and the attorneys and the prosecutors are protected.”
Trump also appointed a new inspector general, who has been criticized for his partisan appointment and his role in the appointment of former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.