In a decision that shouldn’t even have to be debated, New York State settled with the NYCLU today, agreeing to provide defendants with a suitable attorney if they cannot afford one. Despite the fact that it has been the law for 50 years, New York has consistently failed to provide a defense lawyer and has even gone as far as not providing one at all in five counties. In some areas of the state, public defenders take on up to 420 felony cases a year — three times the suggested workload.
As anyone who’s been arrested (and read their Miranda Rights) knows, you’re told that an attorney will be provided for you in the event that you cannot afford one. It’s one of the hallmarks of the American justice system and quite possibly one of the only pieces of legal text that virtually any self-respecting adult can recite.
“For far too long, poor criminal defendants in New York have been railroaded by a public defense system that did little more than process guilty pleas and ruin lives,” said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn.