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June 14, 2008

Hard times making it hard to run our criminal justice system

From ABC News comes this interesting article, headlined "Facing 'Crisis,' Public Defenders May Refuse Cases — Constitutional Dilemma: 'Severe' Budget Cuts Could Force Public Defenders to Turn Away Thousands of Poor Defendants."  Here is how the piece starts:

Faced with what they call severe budget shortfalls, several public defender offices across the country say they may soon begin turning away thousands of poor criminal defendants.

Statewide public defenders in Kentucky and Minnesota and local offices in cities such as Atlanta and Miami say budget cuts are forcing them to fire or furlough trial lawyers, leaving the offices unable to handle misdemeanor and, in some instances, serious felony cases.

The cuts leave states scrambling to find a solution to a constitutional dilemma: The Sixth Amendment requires the government to either provide poor defendants with lawyers or release them.  "It is an impending legal crisis in our state," Joseph Lambert, the chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court, told ABC News.

June 14, 2008 at 05:34 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Jun 14, 2008 6:46:43 AM


Isn't it true that there are three to four prosectors to one public defender? Are the budget cuts going to reduce the numbers of prosecutors, too?

Posted by: America land of the free? | Jun 14, 2008 8:24:45 AM

Of course not, America. It's a lot easier for prosecutors to shore up their office staff in the wake of pressing budget cuts. Just raise the specter of a guilty person walking because no prosecutor is there, and the money suddenly appears. Defense attorneys don't have it so easy.

This is a real problem. Holding people in contempt won't solve anything - will not lead to better representation or more money. The only thing that will lead to more money is judges (and prosecutors) with the courage to let defendants go until they can be provided with adequate representation.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 14, 2008 3:08:33 PM

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