ACLU files lawsuit asking judge to declare Utah’s public defender system unconstitutional
The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah filed a proposed class-action lawsuit Tuesday targeting Utah's anemic indigent-defense system — a system that they say is inadequate, underfunded and unfair to Utahns accused of crimes who rely on public defenders.
The lawsuit, which lists six named plaintiffs who are men in county jails facing a variety of charges, asks a 3rd District Court judge to declare unconstitutional the state's public defense system.
The legal action comes three months after state legislators set aside $2 million to fund the creation of a statewide commission that would oversee indigent-defense services.
But lawyers with the ACLU and co-counsel firm Holland & Hart LLP said Tuesday that the legislative action was not enough to meet the state's constitutional requirement to provide legal help to those who cannot afford it.