On November 20, organizers of the Professional Women in Advocacy Conference announced that TCP President Virginia Sloan was the winner of the 2014 Excellence in Advocacy Award in a Federal Campaign. She was selected from among 47 nominees in the category for her leadership efforts last year in securing improved funding for federal public defenders. These defenders provide the vital “right to counsel” required by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that those too poor to hire their own lawyers have quality legal representation.
In 2013, mandatory reductions in the federal budget resulted in heavy layoffs in many federal defender offices. Given that 90 percent of federal defendants qualify for court-appointed counsel, the impact of these cuts was felt throughout the federal criminal justice system. Sloan organized a campaign to reverse these draconian cuts. She helped convince Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) to hold a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the effects of sequestration on the federal judiciary. TCP coordinated messaging for the hearing with federal defenders and submitted a statement from more than 40 former prosecutors and judges in support of full funding. TCP also obtained positive media coverage in papers and magazines throughout the country, such as the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, and regional media outlets.
In the end, the efforts paid off: in January, 2014, Congress adopted a spending bill that spared federal public defenders from further cuts; in February, the Judicial Conference restored the rates for private attorneys; and in March, many federal defenders’ offices were able to replace some of their lost staff. Without TCP’s concerted efforts under Sloan’s leadership, these results would not have been possible.
Congratulations, Ginny, on this well-deserved recognition!