Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fla. Supreme Court sides with public defenders

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Supreme Court sided with public defenders Thursday in a ruling that said lawyers who defend the poor can seek to refuse new cases if their workload and limited money would keep them from providing defendants adequate representation.

The ruling settles a yearslong dispute after the Miami-Dade County public defender in 2008 asked a circuit judge for the right to refuse third-degree felony cases. At the time, lawyers working for the Miami-Dade public defender's office had an average of more than 400 cases. The judge granted the request, but the state attorney's office appealed the decision and won.

The Supreme Court's decision overturns the appeals court ruling.

"Third-degree felony attorneys often have as many as fifty cases set for trial in one week because of the excessive caseload," the court wrote in its ruling. "Attorneys are routinely unable to interview clients, conduct investigations, take depositions, prepare mitigation, or counsel clients about pleas offered at arraignment."

The court called the situation "a damning indictment of the poor quality of trial representation that is being afforded indigent defendants."

The Supreme Court did ask the Miami-Dade Circuit Court to assess whether conditions today are still excessive.

A lawyer representing the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

The ruling comes 50 years after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in another Florida case that said states must provide lawyers for impoverished criminal defendants.

The U.S. Supreme in 1963 ordered a new trial for Clarence Earl Gideon because a judge denied his request for a court-appointed lawyer before he was convicted of breaking into a Panama City pool room and stealing $65 from a vending machine as well as some soft drinks, beer and wine. Upon retrial, Gideon was acquitted — with help from a lawyer.

The Gideon vs. Wainwright opinion said the Sixth Amendment guarantee of legal representation applied to states as well as the federal government. It led to the creation of public defender systems across the nation.

But in Florida, and other places, public defenders have long complained that they don't have enough money to do their jobs.

Fla. Supreme Court sides with public defenders 05/23/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 23, 2013 9:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rays make Hechavarria trade official

    Blogs

    Here is the release from the team ...

     

  2. Jones: Will Tampa Bay hit a Hall of Fame dry spell now?

    Lightning Strikes

    Marty St. Louis may lack the Hall of Fame stats, but two scoring titles, an MVP award and clutch goals should count for a lot. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
  3. SeaWorld shares drop Monday to 2017 low after disclosure of federal subpoena

    Tourism

    The Orlando parent company of SeaWorld and Busch Gardens theme parks saw its stock drop 3.5 percent Monday to $15.10, its lowest price of this year.

    Killer whales perform at Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld in Orlando in 2011, before public pressure was placed on the theme park company to curtail its orca shows.SeaWorld has since announced an end to the traditional killer whale entertainment  at its theme parks. [AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack]
  4. Update: Scientology cancels planned mock FBI raid on downtown building

    Special Topics

    CLEARWATER — The Church of Scientology planned to film a mock FBI raid on a downtown building Monday afternoon, but the actors and cameras never showed up to the location disclosed to the city.

    According to Clearwater Police, the Church of Scientology plans to hold a mock FBI raid at 3 p.m. Monday at this vacant building at 305 N Fort Harrison Ave. Police announced the raid in advance to alert the public. They said they did not know the reason for the event. [Google Earch image]
  5. Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary

    Human Interest

    NEW YORK — In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey.

    People gather in Washington's Lafayette Park to see the White House lit up in rainbow colors on June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage legal. In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey released on Monday, June 26, 2017. [Associated Press]