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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Irate Ohio judge jails public defender

The next time you feel pressed by a member of the Minnesota bench, keep one thing in mind: It could be worse; you could practice in Ohio.

A public defender in the Buckeye State recently found himself arrested after he refused to comply with a judge's order that he proceed to trial on a case he had been assigned the day before. Not wanting to try the case unprepared, the lawyer would not go forward and the irate judge had him hauled away for contempt.

Outraged criminal defense lawyers in Ohio and across the country have reportedly rallied around the defender. (For more, see "Judge has unprepared lawyer arrested" on the ABC News site.)

It sounds to me like this defender got a raw deal. I suggest we send him a hot dish with a file in it forthwith. ... (Actually, the defender was released after being detained five hours.)

All joking aside, this case does illustrate an important point: How overburdened the public defender system is. Fortunately, in Minnesota, our Legislature takes these concerns seriously. In their last session, lawmakers approved funding for 34 new public defenders. While this does not completely alleviate the problem locally, at least it's a step in the right direction.

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