Maloney revives bill to ensure adequate public defense

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney announced this week that he and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey have re-introduced legislation that would reinforce the constitutional right to a legal defense by allowing class action suits against states that fail to adequately provide public defenders for the poor criminal suspects.

The two Democrats first introduced the Equal Justice Under Act last year as a potential remedy for the often strained systems for representing poor defendants around the country. In the House, 16 of Maloney’s fellow Democrats signed on as co-sponsors.

In a statement touting the proposal on Wednesday, Maloney said:

“Decades after the Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutional right of every American to an attorney in a criminal case, public defenders are still juggling hundreds of cases and defendants are still meeting their lawyers only minutes before entering a guilty plea. Our criminal justice system is broken, and that disproportionately hurts minority communities and poor Americans. Our legislation would give indigent defendants the tools they need to secure their right to effective counsel before it is too late – giving all Americans, regardless of the size of their paycheck, equal justice under the law.”

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