An arrest three years ago in the case of a missing wallet has resulted in the unusual demand by a federal appeals court that Connecticut justify the way criminal defendants are presented in the crowded, lowest tier of the state’s criminal courts, reports the Hartford Courant. The order by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit came in a case alleging that low-income defendants in criminal cases are routinely denied the right to be arraigned by a judge and the right to be informed that they could be eligible for free legal representation.
State officials said the court’s demand might be based on a misunderstanding of procedure in the busy state court system. The officials said that defendants, on their initial court appearances, are permitted to forgo formal arraignment and arrange informal continuations of their cases to avoid waiting in court all day and missing work. The case was brought by a Dominican immigrant charged with a misdemeanor, for allegedly stealing a wallet lost by a police officer. Garcia said he was denied his right to appear before a judge and enter a plea and was not informed in court that he was entitled to representation by a public defender.