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Lawsuit filed against Utah over your right to a lawyer

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Posted at 10:17 AM, Jan 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-24 12:17:10-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A lawsuit has been filed in federal court against the state of Utah and Washington County, accusing them of failing to adequately provided a constitutionally-obligated right to an attorney.

William Cox and Edward Paulus, who are facing criminal charges in Washington County, filed the lawsuit Friday. They seek to make it a class-action lawsuit against the state. Cox is facing a felony charge of acting as an unlicensed broker, Paulus is facing an aggravated sex abuse charge.

The two men, who face prison time if convicted in their individual cases, accuse Washington County of not adequately paying, preparing and training attorneys who are appointed to those who cannot afford a lawyer.

“Hampered by a lack of experience, excessive workloads, inadequate compensation, the lack of support services, and the absence of meaningful administrative oversight and technical assistance, indigent defense counsel do not or are unable to perform even the most basic tasks necessary to provide adequate representation to their clients under the current funding and supervision system. They do not or are unable to act as an effective adversarial check upon the prosecution function based on these shortcomings,” the lawsuit states.

A series of audits reported on by FOX 13 has found problems within the Utah State Courts over your Sixth Amendment right to counsel. The Utah State Legislature has said it will address this issue this session.