Editorial: Public defenders face tough cutsA news item in Friday’s Daily Globe presented some disappointing news for the State of Minnesota’s legal system.
By: Daily Globe, Worthington Daily Globe
A news item in Friday’s Daily Globe presented some disappointing news for the State of Minnesota’s legal system.
An Associated Press report detailed the state Board of Public Defense’s decision to cut more than 15 percent of its lawyers, or the equivalent of 72 full-time positions. The board noted in a press release that the Legislature cut $1.5 million from its budget to address a state shortfall, and that it faces a $3.8 million deficit.
The AP report added some important information about the role of public defenders in Minnesota. We feel it noteworthy that public defenders represent 85 percent of those accused of felonies and half of those accused of misdemeanors. Each public defender handles an average of 714 cases a year — a number that’s projected to soar above 800 once the cuts take effect in July.
This sort of significant decrease in the number of public defenders will have multiple ramifications, many feel. Clearly, with less personnel to go around, there will be more delays in trials, forcing suspects accused of crimes to wait longer for their day in court — not to mention any victims and/or families waiting longer for a resolution.
Other side effects noted by the AP: Local units of government will face delays in collecting fines, fees and assessments, and parents “trying to hang onto their children will stop getting free legal representation.”
While we realize the Legislature faced difficult budgetary decisions this past session, cutting from the Board of Public Defense clearly hurts those who depend on public defenders for legal representation. In other words, folks who can’t afford a lawyer will have more trouble getting one, and that’s not right.