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Saturday, August 24, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eye On Boise

Governor proposes $5M for public defense reform

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter says he’s set aside $5 million in his proposed state budget for next year to address public defense reform. After a short pause, lawmakers greeted the news with applause. It followed a strong statement from Otter about the need for the move. “Let me say that Idaho historically has been a leader in recognizing and ensuring the right to legal counsel,” he said. “It was part of our territorial law and was put in the Idaho Constitution at statehood.”

A lawsuit now pending in state court in Idaho charges that Idaho’s current public defender system is unconstitutional, its public defenders are overworked and undertrained, and the system provides a disincentive for adequate defense, Otter told lawmakers. “It’s not a cheap or easy fix. But I stand with the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission and the State Public Defense Commission in calling on the Legislature to address the issue this year,” the governor declared.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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