Burnt-Out Defenders Refuse New Cases

By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 8, 2008 2:56 PM CST
The most immediate impact of the rushed justice, experts say, is that innocent defendants, sitting in jail, may feel pressure to plead guilty or may be wrongfully convicted.   (AP Photo/Al Grillo)
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(Newser) – Public defenders are as overworked as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore, the New York Times reports. Arguing that their hectic schedules result in scant attention for clients, government-appointed lawyers around the country are refusing new cases and suing to limit their workload. “The quality of public defense around the country is absolutely deteriorating,” said one expert.

Client rosters are swelling, even as budget cuts and high turnover persist. All eyes now are on the Florida Supreme Court, where the state is appealing a decision allowing defenders to refuse some cases. “Right now a lot of public defenders are starting to stand up and say, ‘No more. We can’t ethically handle this many cases,’” said an advocate.
(Read more public defender stories.)