ACLU Lawsuit Seeks To Overhaul Idaho Public Defender System


The American Civil Liberties Union has brought its fight to overhaul the criminal defense system for low-income defendants to Idaho with a lawsuit that says the state hasn’t done enough to make sure poor people are being fairly represented, the Associated Press reports. The ACLU contends state officials have known for several years that overwhelming case loads, underfunded budgets and a patchwork system that varies county by county prevent defendants from receiving adequate legal representation guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The organization has brought similar lawsuits in several states, reaching settlements in New York and Washington state after the U.S. Justice Department intervened on the ACLU’s behalf and state officials agreed to sweeping reforms. The Idaho case names four plaintiffs who say they’ve spent months in jail without speaking to court-appointed attorneys or that their cases weren’t properly reviewed. The organization is seeking class-action status so the case will apply to all low-income defendants in the state. The filing asks a state judge to order Idaho to implement a better system.

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