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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

NY is Failing to Provide Effective Counsel for Indigent Defendants

From NYCLU.com: New York State is failing in its constitutional duty to provide effective counsel to New Yorkers accused of crimes who cannot afford to pay private lawyers, according to a landmark lawsuit filed today by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP.

“Every day, in courtrooms throughout the state, New Yorkers are denied justice simply because they are poor. Justice should not depend on your ZIP code or the size of your wallet,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU. “We filed this lawsuit today as a last resort, in response to the constitutional deficiencies identified by a commission appointed by Chief Judge Kaye to evaluate our public defense system, and the failure of lawmakers to compel the state to repair what is clearly a broken and unjust system.”

The class action lawsuit charges that a lack of adequate funding, oversight and statewide standards is denying New Yorkers accused of crimes their lawful right to competent, qualified and timely representation at all stages of the justice process, a violation of the U.S. Constitution, the state constitution and the laws of New York. Plaintiffs are defendants in Onondaga, Ontario, Schuyler, Suffolk and Washington counties who have encountered these problems. 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. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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