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Idaho lawmaker committee examines public defense

Idaho lawmaker committee examines public defense

By Associated Press. CREATED Jul 23, 2014

BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- Lawmakers on a committee charged with fixing Idaho's public defense system were cautioned Tuesday that by creating new standards for county defense attorneys, the state could open itself up to lawsuits.

Ada County Public Defender Alan Trimming told the Legislature's Public Defense Reform Interim Committee that if the state issues guidelines for public defenders, everyone better be ready to meet them. Otherwise, Trimming said, the standards would simply serve as a "launch pad for litigation."

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho and other legal experts have repeatedly warned that Idaho's patchwork public defense system is unconstitutional and so already a potential target for lawsuits.

Lawmakers agreed earlier this year to create a commission to oversee Idaho's struggling public defender system and provide training to attorneys.