ACLU Suing California County over a “Failing Public Defense System”

The ACLU’s Northern California affiliate say that the Fresno County Public Defender’s Office has been in a “state of crisis” for at least six years because of budget cuts.

The suit, filed last Wednesday, described a situation in which thousands of the county’s poorest residents are without proper legal representation.

One case, the centerpiece of the lawsuit, shows that one defendant had been represented by nine different public defenders amid delays and generally inadequate counsel. 

It continues to argue that the county’s public defenders carry unmanageable caseloads due to falling staffing levels, that defendants are passed from attorney to attorney, and that the public defenders receive insufficient training.

"In Fresno County, persons accused of a crime who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer are effectively tried within a system where the prosecutors determine the outcome with little or no input or challenge from the defense," the suit said.

County and State officials have yet to comment on the lawsuit.

Further reading on the lawsuit can be found here.