High Court Tells Public Defender to Do His Job - NBC 6 South Florida

High Court Tells Public Defender to Do His Job

Miami-Dade public defenders still have to take your felony case, but it's anyone's guess on how effective they'll be

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    High Court Tells Public Defender to Do His Job
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    If you've got a public defender, cut them a little slack if they can't return your phone calls for a few weeks.

     

    So if you do catch a charge and are assigned a public defender, cut them a little slack if they don't get around to returning your phone calls for a few weeks.

     

    Despite being severely understaffed with mounting cases loads, Miami's public defenders still won't be able to refuse new felony cases, an appeals court has ruled Wednesday.

    The decision was a big blow to public defenders across the state, who have been dealing with drastic budget cuts while trying to weigh the needs of the public for meaningful legal representation.

    ''There is simply insufficient evidence to support such a drastic remedy,'' Third District Court of Appeal justices wrote in their opinion.

    Meanwhile, the state attorney's office may gain a significant leg up in cases if the overworked public defenders can't focus the necessary attention on cases.

    In short, more people may end up in jail or taking less than favorable plea deals.

    A local judge saw the potential slide in the scale of justice and ruled the public defender's office could stop accepting thousands of lesser third-degree felony cases. But the Third District Court of Appeals decided it would be better to pass the buck to the Legislature.

    But Public Defender Carlos J. Martinez claimed his office was violating defendants' constitutional rights because they could not get meaningful representation.