Feds File Amicus Brief In Inadequate Public Defense Suit Against Idaho 

click to enlarge U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
  • U.S. Department of Justice

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in a lawsuit against the state of Idaho over its public defender system.

In the case of Tucker vs. Idaho, plaintiffs allege their Sixth Amendment rights to counsel have been violated by Idaho's failure to provide adequate resources to support an effective legal defense for poor defendants.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that due to inadequate funding and oversight, public defenders across Idaho have been unable to engage in the basic functions of representations, including meeting with clients, conducting an adequate investigation, filing motions and even preparing for trials.

“The criminal justice system works well only when indigent defendants are adequately represented,” said U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson of the District of Idaho, announcing the amicus brief had been filed with the Idaho State Supreme Court on May 11. “The Constitution guarantees this right."

In its filing, the U.S. Department of Justice cited Gideon vs. Wainwright, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that guarantees a free public defense for members of the public who can't afford an attorney. In 2013, Boise Weekly chronicled how Idaho was rife with inconsistency, at best, and probable civil-liberties violations, at worst, in complying with the constitutional requirement.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in commenting on Wednesday's filing of the amicus brief, said, “The right to adequate counsel is an essential safeguard of our commitment to equal justice—and it is the responsibility of the states to protect that right, to uphold that principle, and to ensure that every defendant has access to competent counsel.”

Read the full amicus brief here: 

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