Sunday, April 15, 2012

PA county public defender sues for funding

Luzerne County Chief Public Defender Albert J. Flora Jr., along with three indigent adult criminal defendants, filed a class action suit against the county and County Manager Robert C. Lawton for "deliberate indifference to the funding needs" of the Adult Unit of the Luzerne County Public Defender's Office, reported The Legal Intelligencer.

The suit claims the office's ability to represent adult defendants has suffered while its juvenile representation has seen marked improvement because of grant funding following the county's "kids-for-cash" scandal.

The 50-page complaint in Flora v. Luzerne County , filed Tuesday in Luzerne County Common Pleas Court, alleges that the county's failure to respond to the office's call for increased funding "has led to a grossly underfunded and thus overwhelmed Office of the Public Defender, resulting in the provision of sub-constitutional representation to many indigent criminal defendants and the complete deprivation of representation to many others," reported The Intelligencer.

According to the complaint, the lack of funds drove the office to institute a policy in December 2011 of denying applications for representation in all cases except those involving homicide, felony sex offenses, extradition, mental health, state parole, county probation/parole revocations, juveniles and incarcerated adult defendants.

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