US To Release Prisoners Who Don’t Have Lawyers?

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( – On Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling which would release from custody all defendants in Oregon if they do not have a defense attorney after a week of being in jail. 

In the 2-1 decision, the court of appeals noted that the public defense system in Oregon is a “Sixth Amendment nightmare.” This was a reference to the section in the Constitution which grants to all those who have been accused of a crime the right to a lawyer. The court pointed out that the responsibility for ensuring that criminal defendants have the necessary legal protections lies with the state of Oregon. 

Due to the public defender crisis in Oregon, the state has for years failed to provide public defendants to those who need them. According to the data on the day of the ruling, there were over 3,200 defendants who had not been assigned a public defender. The Oregon Judicial Department data also showed that out of those criminal defendants, around 146 were in custody. However, an even smaller number than that is going to be affected by the recent ruling. 

The Office of Public Defense Services drafted in March a report which noted that Oregon would need to have another 500 attorneys in order to meet its obligations. State officials have also tried to address these issues, while also attempting to provide additional funding. Still, despite these efforts, there are structural issues. 

The decision comes after last year’s preliminary injunction by U.S. District Court judge Michael McShane who had made a similar decision after 10 people charged with crimes had been held in county jail without being assigned a public defender. 

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