Friday, March 26, 2010

On inadequate representation of indigent clients

I recently wrote about a class action New York seeking to force the state to fulfill its obligation to provide competent legal representation to indigent defendants in criminal cases (here). (And now there is news of a similar case in Michigan).

Here are the first few paragraphs from an article in the National Law on this issue:

"Last week, New York's highest court heard arguments in a class action challenging the legal representation of indigent defendants. The Michigan Supreme Court will consider a similar case in April. Both suits are part of a larger litigation strategy to force negligent states to live up to their constitutional obligations. In some places, the poor receive the facade of representation from overloaded, undercompensated defense attorneys.

At the same time, the Justice Department has launched an initiative to improve the representation of indigent defendants, led by Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe. The program could draw attention to those jurisdictions that skimp on their legal duty to provide competent counsel for indigent defendants.

The problem of inadequate representation is very real and must be remedied, but the difficult question is the appropriate role of the federal government. Although tempting, Congress should not throw more money at the states; instead, it needs to get out of this business altogether."

To keep reading this story go here.

I agree that states owe indigent defendants competent legal representations. The system is broken and something needs to be done. I am not sure what it is but something needs to be done.

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