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Class-Action Lawsuit Challenging New York's Public Defender System Moves To Trial

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A State Supreme Court ruled this week that a class-action lawsuit challenging the effectiveness of the state's public defender system can move to trial.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said it filed this lawsuit because poor people all across the state are appearing in arraignments without a lawyer. When they are assigned to public defenders, the NYCLU alleged, those defenders can’t effectively represent them because of the large number of cases they already carry.

“New York has not fully accepted its responsibility to make sure that there is a lawyer available every time a person is charged with a crime and that that lawyer has enough resources and low enough caseload that he can serve every client,” said Corey Stoughton, a senior attorney at the NYCLU.

An exception is New York City, where public defenders' caseloads are not exceeding national standards.

The trial is expected to start in March.

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