TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Describing what it called a “damning indictment” of representation for poor criminal defendants, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that the Miami-Dade County public defender’s office could withdraw from a large chunk of felony cases because of excessive workloads.
Thursday’s ruling overturns an appeals court decision that said public defenders had to accept the cases to represent those who can’t afford lawyers.
The Supreme Court cited statistics that show public defenders in Miami-Dade were taking on 200 to 300 cases beyond what they should have been able to handle. It also mentioned conditions that often meant defenders had to start trial before they could interview witnesses or visit crimes scenes.
The court asked the original Miami-Dade County court to determine whether public defenders are still overburdened.
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