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Public Defenders Buried in Cases

November 19th, 2008 by flanews

Budget cuts are forcing some public defenders to turn down cases. Others are overworked and at the breaking point. As Whitney Ray tells us, the states court system says it cant endure more budget cuts.

Hear it Here: Public Defenders Buried in Cases

Public Defender Nancy Daniels is trying to do more with less. Budget cuts and a hiring freeze have caused her offices caseload to skyrocket.

The national standards say that a misdemeanor lawyer should handle no more than 400 cases a year. Ours are well over 800 at the current rate. For felonies its suppose to be 250 cases a year, again our lawyers are way over 500, 600, said Daniels.

And it could get worse. The states courts system is holding back four percent of its budget in anticipation of more cuts. And public defenders may need money now more than ever. Statistics show, when the economy tanks, the crime rate increases.

ACLU Spokesman Larry Spalding said more cuts will pressure the state to settle cases out of court.

In many cases prosecutors are going to have to make better deals for defendants than they would really like to do so, said Spalding.

But Daniels sees the system working in reverse, and fears her clients will pay the price.

At what point can you no longer provide adequate representation for people who need it, asked Ray. I feel like if were not there now, were extremely close, said Daniels.

In September, A judge ruled in favor of the Miami-Dade Public Defenders Office saying the office could turn down people facing lesser charges. The decision in the Miami-Dade case has been appealed.

Posted in Criminal Justice, State News | 1 Comment »

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