Pa. Supreme Court hears arguments on funding for public defenders

Written by The Associated Press | Apr 6, 2016 12:09 PM

(Pittsburgh) -- The state Supreme Court is considering arguments about whether counties can be sued for not providing enough funding for public defenders.

The arguments scheduled for Pittsburgh today grew out of a lawsuit filed by the chief public defender in Luzerne County in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

A lower appeals court threw out a lawsuit, saying defendants who don't receive sufficient representation can only file appeals to contest their convictions on the grounds that their attorneys weren't adequate. 

But the public defender, the American Bar Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other advocacy groups say the court should allow lawsuits that address "chronic and systemic funding deficiencies.''

They argue that underfunding can cause public defender offices to be understaffed and overworked, violating defendants' constitutional rights to competent attorneys.

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