A rescue for the state public defender system is likely to get more attention this week from the state senate.
The men and women who defend indigent people accused of crimes face ethical and legal liability as their workload increases. Professional standards say lawyers cannot accept more cases than they can adequately handle. But the state’s neglect for years to put more funding into the program now raises questions about whether defendants can get the speedy trials the constitution allows them to have. Senator Jack Goodman hopes the senate passes his bill reforming the public defender system before the crisis he describes becomes a cataclysm. He reminds fellow Senators the United States Supreme Court is considering a case that could release accused persons if they do not get a trial within eight months because the state has not provided them with an adequate defense attorney.. "That can be deemed a denial of speedy trial…The result of that would be large numbers of accused criminals being released en masse," he warns. Goodman says crime victims have to endure a more protracted and painful process to see justice done.His bill puts more money into the program but it also allows greater use of outside lawyers to take some of the load off public defenders.