Ten attorneys and staff members from the U.S. Federal Public Defender's Office in Arizona were given pink slips earlier this week.

Jon Sands, the federal public defender for the state of Arizona, said he was forced to lay off staff because of the "exploding" numbers of criminal cases filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office over the last several years and the increasing financial strain on the federal courts.

According to the United States Attorneys' Annual Statistical Report, Arizona saw a 300 percent increase in the number of criminal defendants between 2005 and 2011. In 2005, just over 7,900 defendants had charges filed against them in Arizona's federal courts. That number was 31,600 in 2011.

Sands called the decision "wrenching," but said he had no choice since his budget has not kept up with the pace of new immigration and drug cases.

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He declined to say how many of those laid off were attorneys versus other workers, or which district they worked in, although he said they were spread out between units in Tucson, Flagstaff, Phoenix and Yuma.

Before the layoffs, Sands had a staff of 185, with 70 of them attorneys.

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or kimsmith@azstarnet.com. On Twitter: @KimSmithStar On StarNet: Follow the news and events at Pima County's courthouses in Kim Smith's blog, At the Courthouse, at azstarnet.com/courthouse