IDAHO FALLS – An Idaho judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho over public defender funding can move forward as a class action.
The ACLU initially filed the suit against the state in 2015 on behalf of four plaintiffs who claimed their representation from public defenders was inadequate, the Post Register reported.
The judge issued the ruling Wednesday.
The new status means more plaintiffs who say they’ve received deficient public defender representation can be included in the lawsuit.
“This decision is about ensuring even the most vulnerable among us have adequate legal representation and that public defenders have the time and resources they need to defend their clients against the colossal resources government can use to lock up Idahoans, break up their families, and take away their liberty,” ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Leo Morales said in a statement.
The ACLU is challenging how public defenders are funded, claiming the system is unprepared to handle the caseloads because the funding is managed by individual counties instead of the state.
The state had argued against making the case a class-action lawsuit, claiming there was no commonality among defendants who use public defenders because of the differences among the counties.
In his ruling, Judge Samuel Hoagland found the differences from county to county were not relevant.
The initial suit named the state, the state Public Defense Commission and Gov. Butch Otter as defendants, and it was dismissed in 2016. The suit was reinstated last year, and the Republican governor was removed as a defendant.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.