Ma. Court: Free Poor Defendants Without Attorneys

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Massachusetts's highest court yesterday ordered that poor criminal defendants in Hampden County be freed from jail if they are not assigned a lawyer after seven days, reports the Boston Globe. The ruling could force the Legislature and Governor Mitt Romney to raise hourly pay rates for court-appointed lawyers. Declaring that "chronic underfunding" of legal services for the poor is making it impossible to find lawyers to take cases, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered that charges be dismissed if defendants go 45 days without a lawyer. Charges could be reinstated once defendants get lawyers. The release of defendants . . .

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