ACLU Lawsuit Claims Fresno County Public Defender Overworked

Apr 13, 2016

A Fresno County Superior Court judge is allowing a lawsuit against the county public defender's office to move forward. 

The ACLU claims the office is underfunded and that violates the rights of defendants to due process and a speedy trial.

The ACLU’s Novella Coleman says budget cuts mean attorneys in the office are struggling with massive workloads. 

Coleman: “For one person to represent anywhere between 1,400 to 2,000 people each year you just run into a practical time limitation where you aren’t adequately able to investigate each case, and wouldn’t have the time and resources that you need to and file the motions that you need to, to  make sure that person’s constitutional rights are protected.”

But Fresno County Counsel Dan Cederborg says the county intends to fight the suit, pointing out the county has been taking steps to improve conditions.

“You know, the county has already done some things. They added 17 positions two years ago. They have increased the budget every year for several years.”  

The county did get part of the case thrown out, but the remainder of the lawsuit will be back in court later this year.