A Fresno Superior Court Judge has ruled that California is responsible for ensuring people who can’t afford to hire their own lawyers are provided with effective counsel. With that, they decided that the ACLU lawsuit against Fresno County and the State of California can continue. The next court date for this case has been scheduled for later this year.
Under the Sixth Amendment, it is required of the government to provide legal counsel to those who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Fresno County is failing to provide public defenders the resources necessary to represent their clients. In July 2015, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California filed a lawsuit against Fresno County and the state of California for an overhaul of the county’s poor public defense system.
Overworked Public Defenders
There are 25,000 Fresno residents in need of public defenders each year, causing the public defenders to be overworked and lacking resources. Because of this, residents have been forced to navigate the criminal justice system without the adequate legal representation that is guaranteed by the Constitution. The National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals recommends that an individual attorney should not handle more than 150 felony cases a year. The average Fresno County public defender handles 612 cases a year, over four times more than the optimal caseload. As for misdemeanor cases, a public defender is advised to handle 400 cases a year while the average caseload in Fresno is 1,462 cases per year.
Because the state and county have not been providing substantial legal defense, residents have been spending unnecessary time in jail while waiting for their cases to be resolved. Since the public defenders have been overworked they are telling clients to plead guilty, causing people to be accused of crimes they didn’t commit. This is very harmful for immigrants because by pleading guilty it makes it harder or impossible to become a legal citizen.
Ultimately the ACLU has been working to get the county and the state to provide the resources needed for public defenders to do their job adequately.
Charles Magill’s relentless and creative style of legal service has resulted in more than 150 jury and court trial victories. Because of his uncanny ability to explain complex legal cases with unmistakable clarity, many news organizations, including FOX, ABC, CBS, NPR, NBC, The Wall Street Journal and The Fresno Bee, have sought his concise legal insight in interviews. He is an active member in the local Fresno Community and a member of the Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce. He and his firm have received multiple awards of recognition, many of which are a direct result of client nomination.