Miami Public Defender, Citing Budget, To Refuse Most Felony Cases

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The Miami-Dade Public Defender plans to begin turning away thousands of cases in the coming weeks, arguing it is so short-staffed and underfunded that attorneys can’t effectively cover their assigned cases, the Miami Herald reports. ”We’re dancing as fast as we can. We can’t keep this up. We don’t have any alternative,” Public Defender Bennett Brummer said, noting that his attorneys are required by the Constitution to provide adequate representation for indigent defendants.

Brummer’s plan: Refuse most felony cases. The office will continue to take cases in juvenile and misdemeanor court and the most serious felony cases — first-degree murders and capital sexual batteries. Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein is considering a similar measure. The Miami-Dade staff of 177 trial attorneys handles some 100,000 cases every year. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle was surprised by Brummer’s plan. “Frankly, such a position would be too absurd to contemplate at this point,” said a spokesman. Legal experts disagreed on whether Brummer can refuse cases simply because his attorneys are overworked.

Link: http://www.miamiherald.com/519/story/555857.html

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