Systemic Litigation

Pennsylvania’s continuing struggles to meet Gideon’s promise

BY David Carroll on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Though the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requires each of its counties to establish a public defender office, Pennsylvania remains one of only two states that have elected to delegate its entire right to counsel financial obligation under Gideon v. Wainwright and its progeny to its counties (Utah is the other).  Leaving counties responsible for administering and funding their criminal justice systems, and in particular indigent defense services, can put an undue hardship on local jurisdictions to ensure adequate representation of poor people accused with crimes.  Nationally, counties with fewer sources of revenue may have to dedicate a far greater portion of their limited budget to defender services than would counties in better economic standing. 

Gideon Alert: Lawsuit challenges Colorado law refusing appointment of counsel until after clients meet with DA

BY David Carroll on Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Colorado is the only state in the country that statutorily requires indigent defendants in misdemeanor cases to consult with prosecutors about plea deals before they can receive their constitutional right to counsel.  Colo. Rev. Stat. § 16-7-301(4) states that, in misdemeanor cases, the “application for appointment of counsel and the payment of the application fee shall be deferred until after the prosecuting attorney has spoken with the defendant.”  The prosecutor is statutorily obligated “to tell the defendant any offer that can be made based on the facts as known by the prosecuting attorney at that time.”

On December 2, 2010 the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition filed a federal lawsuit against Governor Bill Ritter challenging the constituionality of a law requiring misdemeanor defendants to delay appointment of counsel until after they have spoken to a prosecutor about a plea deal.

Author/Organization: Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
Publication Date: 12/02/2010

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Gideon Alert: As Michigan Supreme Court again reinstates ACLU Duncan lawsuit, the Race to the Bottom continues in Chippewa and Bay counties

BY David Carroll on Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 1:11 PM
On April 30, 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ordered the American Civil Liberties Union class action lawsuit in Duncan v. Michigan to move forward, only to reverse itself on July 16, 2010 in a 4-3 order issued on reconsideration.  By granting summary judgment in favor of the Governor and State of Michigan at that time, most people (including this author) assumed the court had put an end to any opportunity for the plaintiffs to prove they are being denied the effective right to counsel as a result of Michigan’s inadequate and ineffective system of public defense.  (For more information on the Duncan case and orders, see our earlier Gideon Alerts here and here.)  However, on November 30, 2010, the Court issued a third order, reversing itself yet again with another 4-3 vote, that reinstates the original unanimous April 30th order.