FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — On Tuesday (Jan. 22) Duane Kees, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that the Grand Jury Session for January is canceled due to lack of resources as a result of a month-long Government shutdown.
Kees says no criminal cases will be dismissed and no trials or other hearings will be moved at this time due to the cancelation.
The cases that would normally be presented to the Grand Jury this month will be resolved in other ways, according to Kees.
Criminal defendants have the choice to waive indictment by a Grand Jury and can plead guilty to criminal information (a sworn written statement which charges that a particular individual has done some criminal act or is guilty of some criminal omission) filed by the United States Attorney's Office.
"This is one option that will be used for the United States Attorney’s Office to continue to prosecute cases and promote the safety and welfare of people in the Western District of Arkansas."
Another option will be for criminal defendants to request an order from the United States District Court to enlist a new Grand Jury later.
"Regardless of the manner in which criminal cases are resolved going forward during this Government shutdown, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas will continue to work diligently with our State, Local, and Federal agency partners to investigate and prosecute criminal cases throughout the Western District of Arkansas."
Kees says the lack of funding will not stop attorneys and staff members from serving the Western District of Arkansas.
"Despite the lack of necessary funding, the attorneys and staff members of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas continue to work tirelessly to support and advance the mission of the United States Department of Justice. These employees do so by working long hours to support state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies and to continue to promote the safety and welfare of the Western District of Arkansas by prosecuting federal criminal cases throughout the district."
When a government shutdown takes place, the Department of Justice has a set of procedures in place in the event of a lapse in funding to ensure the department's ability to ensure public safety and national security, Kees said.
"Typically those employees with public safety and national security functions will remain on the job, and others who are non-excepted will be furloughed."
It's up to each U.S. Attorney's office to determine which personnel will temporarily be let go.
The Western District of Arkansas includes 34 counties stretching from Texarkana and El Dorado to Fayetteville and Fort Smith. The headquarters office is located in Fort Smith.