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Public defenders reject new cases

MIAMI, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Public defenders in Florida and other states say overwhelming workloads are forcing them to reject new cases.

Rising caseloads, coupled with state budget cuts, undermine the constitutional right to adequate counsel for the poor, said David J. Carroll, director of research for the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.

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"Right now a lot of public defenders are starting to stand up and say, 'No more: We can't ethically handle this many cases,'" Carroll told The New York Times in a story published Sunday.

A Florida appellate court is reviewing a decision that lets the public defender's office in Miami-Dade County refuse new cases, the Times reported, noting public defenders in the county are handling close to 500 felony cases each with lawyers assigned to misdemeanor cases handling an average of 2,225 cases each.

Similar situations exist in Missouri, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Minnesota, Maryland, Arizona and New York, where public defenders joke about a plea bargain "assembly line," the Times reported.

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