In comments to the New York County Lawyers' Association yesterday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara complained about sequestration's impact on his office, which handles federal prosecutions in the Southern District of New York:
A prolonged hiring freeze and continuing budget cuts could ultimately work irrevocable harm to the fundamental mission of my office…
Unless something changes, our office will simply get smaller and smaller every year….
If the blanket cuts continue, we will be forced, in the not too distant future, to make supremely difficult choices…
Something has to give.
Sounds like good news to me, since Bharara's understanding of his mission includes pernicious uses of taxpayer money such as prosecuting people for helping New Yorkers play poker online, for connecting drug suppliers with consumers, and even for passing out pamphlets about jury nullification. If anything, Bharara's office would benefit from the prioritization that budget cuts require. Even in the speech where he whines about not having enough money to protect the public, he brags about "shut[ting] down a major on-line currency service used by criminals [Liberty Reserve, presumaby] and the world's largest underground website for drugs and contraband [i.e., Silk Road]." A look at Bharara's recent press releases reinforces the impression that sequestration so far has left him plenty of resources to prosecute people for things that should not be crimes:
And that's just November. Bharara says his "fundamental mission" is "to keep our homeland secure, our streets safe, our markets fair, and our government honest." With the possible exception of "fair" markets, which presumably is how Bharara understands the goal of criminalizing buying and selling securities based on forbidden knowledge, one is hard pressed to see evidence of this mission in these cases.
"What choices am I supposed to make about which categories of big cases we can and cannot do?" Bharara asks. How about focusing on actions that violate people's rights?
To be fair, Bharara does prosecute real crimes from time to time. But imagine how much he could accomplish if he had fewer resources.
[Thanks to Nick Sibilla for the tip.]