Indigent Defense Reform Benefits Defendants, Counties

, New York Law Journal

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One of New York's worst-kept secrets is the abject failure of its public defense system. Fifty years ago, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states must provide a competent lawyer to poor people accused of crimes. New York State's response was to abdicate its responsibility to county governments. As with so many unfunded state mandates, counties face enormous political and economic pressure to keep costs down, especially given that the immediate beneficiaries of the Gideon mandate are disenfranchised indigent criminal defendants.

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