Idaho’s Broken Court System
The Times News Paper had an article today concerning Idaho’s Public Defenders spending a fraction of the time they need to provide proper representation to those unable to hire a private attorney.
A study by the Idaho Public Defense Commission states that they found that the public defenders spend on an average of four hours on each case felony case.
The public defenders responded that they need, on an average, thirty-eight hours to effectively defend someone accused of a felony.
When a separate group of private attorneys were asked how many hours it took to provide effective counsel for a felony charge, the average was sixty-eight hours.
This study is the result of an Idaho class action lawsuit over allegations the state’s public defense system is faulty and violates the 6th Amendment Right of Citizens.
The 6th Amendment of the United States Constitution says;
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.
The right to an impartial jury.
The right to be informed of pending charges.
The right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses.
The right to compel favorable witnesses to testify at trial through the subpoena power of the judiciary.
The right to legal counsel.
Under the right to counsel it also states you have the right to counsel even if you are impoverished or indigent.
According to the court, the right to counsel is “one of the safeguards deemed necessary to insure fundamental Human Right of Life and Liberty”.
The Courts went through many court cases trying to define when a defendant has the right to court appointed counsel. In the case of Florida vs. Argersinger, the court decided that the problems associated with misdemeanor and petty offenses often require the presence of counsel to insure the accused a “fair trial”.
The key word here is “fair trial”.
When presenting a case before the court, the State has the prosecutor and several investigative resources to call upon. This being a police department and/or sheriff’s department.
The Public Defender is lucky if there is one investigator to ask for assistance. Keep in mind this investigator is just as overworked as the defense attorney. How many hours can he dedicate to the case for an investigation?
This defense investigator must review the case file, find witnesses, interview the witnesses and then write the reports on the interviews.
This study was conducted by the state’s Public Defense Commission with the help of Boise State University.
Idaho delegates the responsibility to pay for and provide pubic defenders to the county governments. This has resulted in a patchwork system of the public defenders, with high caseloads, little funding and no set standards or policies across the state.