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March 22, 2010

Big indigent defense lawsuit about to be heard by New York Court of Appeals

Via the New York Civil Liberties Union, I received a press release headed "NY’s Highest Court to Hear Argument in Case that Charges State with Failing its Constitutional Duty on Public Defense."  Here is part of the text:

New York’s highest court will tomorrow hear arguments in a New York Civil Liberties Union case that charges New York State with failing its constitutional duty to provide effective counsel to poor New Yorkers accused of crimes.

The class action lawsuit, filed in 2007 by the NYCLU and the law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, charges that a lack of adequate funding, oversight and statewide standards is denying New Yorkers their right to competent and timely legal representation, a violation of the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution and the laws of New York.

The lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring et al. v. State of New York, was filed on behalf of 20 criminal defendants in Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Suffolk and Washington counties who have encountered a dysfunctional public defense system.  The plaintiffs seek reform on behalf of all defendants who are or will be charged with felonies, misdemeanors or lesser offenses and who cannot afford a lawyer.

For background about the NYCLU’s case and to view the complaint, visit this link.

Long ago, I wrote an article suggesting that the goal of disparity reduction sought by structured sentencing reforms can (and often will) be undermined by a justice system with poor quality (or poor funding) of defense attorneys.  And, as the federal sentencing system has moved to an advisory mode, I have been seeing additional and often tangible links between the nature and quality of defense represention and sentencing outcomes.

March 22, 2010 at 11:41 AM | Permalink


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Here's an NY Times story about the story behind the case.


Posted by: Anon | Mar 22, 2010 12:41:38 PM

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