The justice system hinges on the idea that everyone, no matter their race, gender or socioeconomic class is entitled to receive fair legal representation in the event they are accused of a crime. Right now, the Minnesota justice system is in a crisis of sorts, with a dramatically low number of public defenders compared to the number of backlogged cases that need legal representation. Currently, with the approximately 150,000 cases that come to the Minnesota Public defender’s office each year, some estimate that public defenders are only able to spend a fraction of an hour with their clients to orient themselves to the case, rather than the 4 hours that are recommended (nationally) for the same amount of work. These public defenders are known throughout the state for working grueling hours just to barely meet the minimum standards for mounting a defense.
Long Term Legal Consequences
What are the consequences for this imbalance? There are many. If a defendant is being held by the state (in jail) waiting for their first court appearance, they may just have to wait — in a jail cell, longer than would normally be necessary. And, once a public defender is finally able to focus on a case, he/she may not be able to give the case the attention it needs. Often what happens is that the public defenders do not have enough time to thoroughly research their cases and have a limited amount of time to mount a strong defense. These public defenders are doing their absolute best — no one is disputing this, but the consequences may be compromising the state’s justice system. Another disturbing piece of data…the American Bar Association states that the maximum annual weighted caseload for each attorney be 400. Minnesota public defenders manage an average of more than 600 cases.
What Is Being Done To Fix This?
Clearly, crisis for the Minnesota justice system needs attention and more resources. The state currently has a surplus of funds, so many are calling for some of these funds to be put toward fixing this issue once and for all. Public defenders and their administrative assistants need to be paid more, new defenders need to be hired and funds need to be available for things like hiring expert witnesses and forensic work. The state legislature is set to tackle this issue in their next session. Stay tuned for more and hopefully some improvements to this issue. But for now, for your best chance at legal success – in any case is hiring a lawyer. One that is experienced, knowledgeable and able to give you one-on-one personal attention.
The team at Kellemeyn & Kellemeyn Law Firm serves those in Minnesota and can help support a wide variety of legal issues. Call us at 1-763-427-5131 for more information about how we may be able to help you.