The Kentucky finance cabinet is asking for an injunction to block public defenders from withdrawing from cases, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. The Department of Public Advocacy began withdrawing from certain types of cases July 1 because of budget cuts. It has sued the state and leaders in the legislature for more funding, saying they have not allocated enough money to fulfill the state’s constitutional mandate to provide lawyers for poor criminal defendants. The DPA says it has enough money to last through February or March 2009 before running out.
Lawyers for the Finance & Administration Cabinet and State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach IV say that gives the legislature or courts five to six months to address the issues raised in the lawsuit. But Public Advocate Ernie Lewis said it would be irresponsible for the agency to spend money until it goes broke. The public and General Assembly would not stand for that, he said. “I am trying to manage our way out of a severe budget crisis,” said Lewis, who noted that Kentucky has one of the lowest-funded public defender systems in the nation.