New Mexico Supreme Court weighs burden on public defenders

News

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – The New Mexico Supreme court is considering whether public defense attorneys are being stretched too thin to provide an adequate defense to poor people confronting possible jail time.

The Law Offices of the Public Defender wants the court to help defense attorneys keep up with overwhelming case numbers by dismissing some nonviolent citations, recruiting volunteer attorneys and taking other emergency measures. Oral arguments take place Wednesday.

State and local prosecutors say the concerns are overblown. A district judge rejected attempts by defense attorneys to turn down cases in southeastern New Mexico.

The American Bar Association and other national advocacy groups warn that excessive caseloads deprive some poor defendants of a competent defense. Local defense attorneys say caseloads again are spinning out of control, this time in rural Lincoln County.

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