Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Florida case asks whether inadequate funding of public defender's office results in violation of consitituional rights; Michigan says no.

Here is a link to a comment posted in the Crim Law Prof Blog discussing State v. Public Defender, Eleventh Judicial Circuit, 12 So. 3d 798 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009), review granted, No. SC09-1181 (Fla. May 19, 2010), a case to be heard by the Florida Supreme Court that asks whether the limitations imposed by inadequate public funding of a Public Defender's office results in a violation of the constitutional rights of the defendants the PDs represent.

In this case, the Public Defender's office of Florida's 11th district asked the court to be relieved of its obligation to be appointed to represent all future non-capital felony cases because the office's inadequate funding resulted in such an overload of cases for each individual lawyer that they felt they were not able to comply with legal and ethical duties to the clients. The lower court granted the request and the case is now under review.

Interestingly, the Missouri public defender's office has also decided not to take any new cases (here).

In a similar case, the Michigan Supreme Court recently reversed itself and threw out a lawsuit that was aimed at holding the state responsible for failure to provide adequate funding to hire lawyers for poor people accused of crimes. Go here for that story.

Thanks to the Legal Ethics Forum for the information.

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