Wall Street Journal, Aug. 31:
In the past few years, U.S. attorneys' offices around the country have been unable to fill vacancies. Lawyers sometimes can't travel to interview witnesses. Even funds for basic office needs such as photocopying documents and obtaining deposition transcripts have been cut, according to current and former officials.
* * *
Department of Justice data show the impact. Prosecutions are down overall, with large drops in categories such as drugs, violent crime and white-collar offenses.
* * *
Adding to the staffing pressure, more than 100 lawyers and administrative personnel from U.S. attorneys' offices have gone to Iraq to help the fledgling government there. The offices generally pay the salaries of the seconded attorneys, which would typically be about $120,000 a year plus an additional 25% in combat pay.
"I understand that if you wage a war overseas that's going to affect your budget," says Chris Steskal, a veteran prosecutor who left the San Francisco U.S. attorney's office in January 2007 to go into private practice. "But I'd rather spend the money protecting society within your borders."