Idaho Lawyer: Counties, Not State, Liable for Public Defense
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An attorney for the state of Idaho says the ACLU is suing the wrong people over the state's allegedly unconstitutional public defense system.
Deputy Attorney General Michael Gilmore told a judge Wednesday that neither Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, the Public Defense Commission nor the state as a whole has the legal authority or responsibility to enforce standards on county public defense systems. Gilmore said it would have been more appropriate for the ACLU to sue county commissioners, magistrates or judges.
ACLU attorney Jason Williamson countered that the state can't escape liability just by claiming there's no one to sue. He agreed that the state could delegate that responsibility to counties, but said the counties must also have the resources and training to carry out the task.
Idaho is one of just three states that don't provide funding for public defense, and Williamson said that shows the state has abdicated its responsibility to enforce residents' Sixth Amendment rights. Judge Sam Hoagland is expected to issue a written ruling later on whether the lawsuit can move forward.