Minnesota State Legislature to Adjourn Without Justice!
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Minnesota Teamsters Public and Law Enforcement Employees Union, Local No. 320, held a press conference on Monday, May 22, 2017, at 9:00 AM with Assistant State Public Defenders, who are Teamster members, to discuss the State Legislature’s possible failure to reach a budget deal for the Board of Public Defense. Over 650 public defense employees are affected as the entire state court system is put at risk.
The Board of Public Defense requested an additional $17.476 million to its budget for 19 new Assistant Public Defenders, 7 new Dispositional Advisors to assist clients with mental health issues, and 11 new Legal Specialists. The biennial budget request was designed to bring attorney staffing levels to 75 percent of existing state and national standards.
In 2010, the Legislative Auditor’s (OLA) concluded in its report on public defense that: “High public defender workloads have created significant challenges for Minnesota’s criminal justice system.”
The “challenges” cited by the OLA include: 1) the inability to handle certain case types in anything like a timely manner; 2) aggravation of jail overcrowding; 3) postponement of trial settings, which are already far enough out to impinge on the right to a speedy trial; 4) deterioration in the quality of fact-finding, as witnesses become unavailable; and 5) increased strain on all the
other participants in the justice system.
“What the State Legislature did to public defense with its budget bill is a mockery of justice,” says Brian Aldes, Teamsters Local 320 Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Spokesperson for the public defense employees. “Minnesota State Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said the Legislature is ‘jeopardizing public safety’ with underfunding the state justice system, and we agree.”
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