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Friday, October 09, 2015

Ind. Courts - More on "Class Action Lawsuit to be Filed Over Inadequate Johnson County Public Defense System"

Updating this post from yesterday, here is the complaint filed Oct. 8 in Alford v. Johnson Co. Comm.

Here is a lenthy story filed yesterday evening by Annie Goeller of the Daily Journal that begins:

A lawsuit filed against Johnson County judges, commissioners and attorneys questions the way public defenders are paid, who oversees them and how many cases they handle at once.

Under the current system in the county, in which judges hire local attorneys, public defenders have caseloads that are too large to properly represent their clients and are unable to question or challenge the judges overseeing the cases, who also are their bosses, the lawsuit filed in Marion County claims.

One public defender had a caseload of 176 felony cases and 32 misdemeanors last year, more than twice the recommended amount for part-time attorneys. Some suspects reported not seeing their attorney for months at a time, not getting responses to requests for a speedy trial and feeling pressured to plead guilty in order to move the case along, according to the lawsuit.

That’s why Johnson County and other counties statewide must change the way they offer public defender services, attorneys who filed the lawsuit said.

Johnson County is likely no worse than other counties around central Indiana or the state but was chosen for its proximity to Indianapolis and because records showing the caseloads of local public defenders were easily accessible, according to Jonathan Little, one of the Indianapolis attorneys who filed the lawsuit.

The goal of the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of seven local offenders and any others represented by public defenders, is to prompt change statewide, the attorneys said.

They also filed a separate petition with the Indiana Supreme Court, asking the justices to declare that the way Johnson County is offering public defender services is unconstitutional, Little said. And if this lawsuit doesn’t prompt statewide change, more lawsuits could be filed in other counties, he said.

“If Johnson County is being unconstitutional, then other counties would hopefully see that, too,” Little said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 9, 2015 08:44 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts