Wisconsin defendants sue over state public defender problems

Posted: 3:12 PM, Jan 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-17 16:12:20-05
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ASHLAND, Wis. (AP) — A group of defendants from northern Wisconsin is suing over funding and staffing problems in the state Public Defender’s Office.

The five men and one woman from Ashland and Bayfield counties are suing the state on behalf of low-income defendants. They contend their rights to competent defense attorneys and speedy trials have been violated.

The federal lawsuit alleges those problems are hurting the entire region, through increased jail costs, lost work time and a sluggish court system.

State officials say Wisconsin’s low compensation rate for private attorneys has contributed to the shortage of lawyers willing to represent people who can’t afford a private attorney.

A spokesman tells the Ashland Daily Press the state Public Defender’s Office is aware of the lawsuit but is withholding comment until it finishes reviewing it.