Surprise, surprise - poor people getting the short end of the stick

Every day, in courtrooms throughout New York, people are denied justice simply because they are poor. Ricky Lee Glover, a homeless Syracuse man, languished in jail for seven months without bail after he was accused of stealing copper pipes from an abandoned public housing complex. Though he knew nothing about the law, Glover finally filed a motion on his own."I think there's something seriously wrong with a system where people like me have to learn to become their own lawyers," Glover said. He's right. <object width="425" height="355"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/rfjcfPkGsFw&hl=en"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/rfjcfPkGsFw&hl=en" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="355"></embed></object>
Currently, court-appointed lawyers across New York are overwhelmed by huge caseloads and lack sufficient staff and resources to do their jobs. Some lack the necessary experience and training to competently handle their cases. As a result of these deficiencies, poor people facing criminal charges are often compelled to appear in court without a lawyer at critical junctures, such as when bail decisions are made. This often results in excessive bail being set and keeps too many people in jail awaiting trial, increasing their likelihood of conviction. Many public defense lawyers also fail to: meet or consult with clients at critical stages in their cases; investigate the charges against their clients or hire necessary forensic experts; file necessary pre-trial motions; and provide meaningful consultation before clients accept plea bargains, even when this is a viable defense. In November, the New York Civil Liberties Union sued New York State for failing to uphold its constitutional duty to provide effective counsel to all New Yorkers - rich or poor. The situation is far too dire to wait for relief, however. So today the NYCLU filed a request for immediate emergency help to address New York's broken public defense system. The public defense crisis in New York is unfair both to defendants and to the lawyers who are charged with representing them. Defendants are unfairly given second-rate justice because they cannot afford to pay private lawyers, and public defense attorneys are not given the resources, tools and training they need to do right by their clients. The failure of New York's fractured public defense system is widely acknowledged. The inadequacy of the scheme has been well-documented for more than 40 years in dozens of reports by legal advocacy organizations, professional associations and government commissions. In June 2006, a commission appointed by Chief Judge Kaye concluded that the state's public defense system is "severely dysfunctional" and "structurally incapable" of providing people effective legal representation. Recently the Innocence Project found that New York outpaces almost every other state in the number of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence. A broken public defense system impacts all New Yorkers, and all Americans. For more information on the case, visit the NYCLU web site.

Tags: constitution, court, Justice, lawsuit, Low-income, New York, poor, Unconstitutional (all tags)

Comments

9 Comments

Rec'ed

Good diary.

by Student Guy 2008-03-27 07:44AM | 0 recs
Thats the reason they are afraid of heathcare

being available to all Americans.

Right now the poorest people, THOSE WITH THE MOST DANGEROUS JOBS, can't efen afford to go to the doctor when they are seriously ill. What that means is that they will have no paper trail, no opportunit to sue for illnesses. In fact, statistically, those illnesses NEVER HAPPENED.

This is a HUGE reason the right is so against universal healthcare and its part of the reason so many corporations are giving to Obama, who is against it.

Wider availability of healthcare means better epidemiology.

Europe's example shows this. When people get healthcare that they can access without major sacrifice, scientists start learning a lot that they don't otherwise.

(in addition to people leading healthier lives)

by architek 2008-03-27 10:06AM | 0 recs
If someone runs a red light and kills an old perso

If someone runs a red light and kills an old person, and that person is retired, or if they kill a child. Its almost impossible for those persons families to find lawyers because DAMAGES ARE BASED ON INCOME ONLY.

Lawyers make a business decision and its 'this persons life is worth ZERO dollars'

Welcome to America...

by architek 2008-03-27 10:09AM | 0 recs
Since there are so many law students
graduating every day - why can't the State offer payment for some schooling in return for a year, two years at a public defenders' office. Perhaps there are states that are doing this - I don't know. And it's not only the most egregious examples. I, as a homeowner, may have to litigate against a roofing and masonry company. Lawyers cost money - they can hire the lawyers - I have to go into debt to get help. Of course, there is the Attorney General's office but my friends tell me they've waited forever for help and received little.
by Xanthe 2008-03-27 08:08AM | 0 recs
One fifth of all hours billed..for all attorneys..

Should be legitimate, audited PRO BONO HOURS..

One fifth of all hours. By lawyer, NOT by firm. should be pro bono.

That would introduce many lawyers to the lives real people lead, and their problems. It would be good for everybody.

Maybe then lawyers suicide rates would go down (they are currently very high)

They would feel as if they were contributing to the world for a change..

by architek 2008-03-27 10:12AM | 0 recs
Law student proposal would be too expensive..

I wonder if the poster realized how expensive law school tuition can be?

by architek 2008-03-27 10:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Law student proposal would be too expensive..
Yes - I worked for lawyers for about 45 years, and I also handled the interviewing process at law schools for a few years. And I'm sure it's much more expensive than it used to be. Partial payment of tuition. I know it would be expensive - everything is expensive including the war. As to pro bono - the partners in law firms handle the pro bono process - and decide which probono causes to take on. I remember working for a long time on a case of a young woman from South America fighting for citizenship. Many hours -- all to the good. But the irony: while this was going on - staff at the law firm couldn't get legal help on many issues they needed help on - and no free legal advice is given to the staff unless they are working for one of the rainmakers and have a good relationship with him/her. Who can afford lawyers in the working class? A serious question.
by Xanthe 2008-03-27 12:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Surprise, surprise

Figures.  Championing poverty and populism in this country is a political nonstarter (Fig. 1, John Edwards, shown here, actual size).  Everything in government seems to be about middle class, middle class, middle class...

by jarhead5536 2008-03-27 08:45AM | 0 recs
Are you kidding?

Middle class today, lower class tomorrow. We all are  living on borrowed time.

To have a middle class, you need good, stable blue collar and white collar jobs. One by one, each and every haven of stable employment is being decimated.

Perhaps politicians and political fundraisers have stable jobs, I don't know. But for the rest of us, its a jungle out here.

The only sectors of the economy that are doing really well are the sectors that serve the very rich. For example, luxury cars, luxury homes, luxury services.

Extreme discounters were doing well for a while, but even the discounters are hurting now

by architek 2008-03-27 02:03PM | 0 recs

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