News 11.09.07

Lawsuit and reports allege that New York fails to provide defense counsel to poor

A class-action lawsuit filed yesterday in New York alleges that people charged with crimes in New York State receive substandard defense representation, which leads to higher bail in minor cases, more guilty pleas and potentially wrongful convictions. The lawsuit was filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP, and comes after two major reports found major flaws in the state’s public defense system.

“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 (New York Court of Appeals) Chief Judge (Judith) 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.”

Read the NYCLU press release here


Read national press coverage of this lawsuit: New York suit demands proper legal care for poor

. (Reuters, 11/08/07)

More on indigent defense problems in New York State:

The Innocence Project released a report last month on the

23 DNA exonerations in New York State to date

. Among the causes of these 23 wrongful convictions were errors by indigent defense attorneys.

The New York State Commission on the Future of Indigent Defense Services, appointed by Chief Judge Judith Kaye of the state’s top criminal court, released its final report in June 2006 finding funding and standards in the system “grossly inadequate”

Download the report here


The National Legal Aid & Defenders Association released a report last month on the New York State’s failure to provide adequate public defense in upstate Franklin County.

Download the report here

. (PDF)

Read about wrongful convictions nationwide which were caused, at least in part, by bad lawyering


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