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Case Name Tucker v. State of Idaho PD-ID-0001
Docket / Court CV-OC-2015-10240 ( State Court )
State/Territory Idaho
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Special Collection DOJ Civil Rights Division Statements of Interest
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On June 17, 2015, this class action was filed in Idaho's District Court of the Fourth Judicial District against the State of Idaho, Idaho Governor C.L. Otter, and seven Public Defense Commission (PDC) members. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU and private counsel, proceeded under 42 U.S.C. §1 ... read more >
On June 17, 2015, this class action was filed in Idaho's District Court of the Fourth Judicial District against the State of Idaho, Idaho Governor C.L. Otter, and seven Public Defense Commission (PDC) members. The plaintiffs, represented by the ACLU and private counsel, proceeded under 42 U.S.C. §1983 and state law, and alleged violation of their Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to adequate legal counsel, a right also guaranteed under the Idaho Constitution (Art. 1 §13). The suit claimed that Idaho maintained an unconstitutional public defender system wherein thousands enter a defective criminal justice system that is overburdened and underresourced. In particular, plaintiffs claimed that they had to go before a judge for bail hearings, and even enter pleas of guilty and be sentenced, all without a lawyer present; they often faced bail amounts too high for them to pay.

The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief which would require the state to obtain court approval of “a plan to develop and implement a statewide system of public defense that is consistent with the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution and laws of the State of Idaho,” including systems to ensure uniform standards related to attorney workload, performance, and training.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss shortly after the complaint was filed and on January 20, 2016, Judge Samuel A. Hoagland dismissed the case, finding that the defendants were protected by sovereign immunity and that justiciability doctrines (standing, ripeness, and separation of powers) barred the claim. The plaintiffs appealed on January 25, 2016 to the Idaho Supreme Court. On May 12, 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs and recommending that the Idaho Supreme Court reverse the district court's dismissal because the ruling "has deprived indigent defendants in Idaho" of an essential tool to enforce their constitutional rights.

On April 28, 2017, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed the dismissal as to the state of Idaho and the PDC, but affirmed as to the Governor. In particular, the Court found: that sovereign immunity in the state court was a common law doctrine, and that it was inapplicable when constitutional violations were alleged, and also that the plaintiffs had standing, their claims were ripe, and that their requested relief would not implicate the separation of powers doctrine. The Court stated that the right to counsel was not entrusted to any particular branch of government and just because three branches may collaborate when deciding how to ensure a public defender system is constitutional does not itself implicate a separation of powers issue. 394 P.3d 54.

The Idaho Supreme Court remanded the case and did not award attorney fees or costs on appeal because the merits of the claim still needed to be addressed.

After the case was remanded back to the Idaho District Court and Judge Samuel A. Hoagland, the plaintiffs filed a first amended class action complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief and supplemental pleading against the State of Idaho and the current seven members of the PDC in their official capacities.

On January 17, 2018, after holding a hearing on the motion for class certification one month before, the district court certified a class of:
all indigent persons who are now or who will be under formal charge before a state court in Idaho of having committed any offense, the penalty for which includes the possibility of confinement, incarceration, imprisonment, or detention in a correction facility (regardless of whether actually imposed) and who are unable to provide for the full payment of an attorney and all other necessary expenses of representation in defending against the charge.
The court rejected the defendants' contention that the dissimilarities of experiences with public defenders among the class were too great to allow class certification. Instead, the court explained that commonality was satisfied by numerous questions common to every member of the class, including: whether the State is currently providing constitutionally sufficient representation for indigent defendants in their respective jurisdictions; whether the State has violated the United States and Idaho Constitutions by failing to implement, administer, and oversee adequate public defense systems; whether, by abdicating its responsibility to adequately fund, supervise, and administer indigent defense services to the counties, the State has failed to ensure that indigent defendants are provided with effective legal representation, all in violation of the United States and Idaho Constitutions.

Following this, both parties moved for summary judgment on November 20, 2018. One of the central issues presented by the cross motions was what the appropriate legal standard the plaintiffs would have to meet in order to prevail on their systemic challenge to Idaho's indigent public defense system.

On March 19, 2019, the district court denied both parties' motions, and instead, under Idaho Appellate Rule 12(c)(2), issued an order recommending permission to appeal from an interlocutory order. The court explained that an immediate appeal was necessary to materially advance the litigation given the substantial confusion over the standard to be applied and the fact that the issue presents a matter of first impression.

The litigation was stayed, and will proceed on appeal if the Idaho Supreme Court accepts the district court's recommendation. As of April 17, 2019, the Idaho Supreme Court has not acted on this recommendation, and the litigation is ongoing.

Abigail DeHart - 06/02/2017
Chris Pollack - 04/16/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Assistance of counsel (6th Amendment)
Due Process
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Bail/Bond
Confidentiality
Conflict of interest
Fines/Fees/Bail/Bond
Funding
Juveniles
Quality of representation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Idaho State Public Defense Commission
State of Idaho
Plaintiff Description Class Certified as: all indigent persons who are now or who will be under formal charge before a state court in Idaho of having committed any offense, the penalty for which includes the possibility of confinement, incarceration, imprisonment, or detention in a correction facility (regardless of whether actually imposed) and who are unable to provide for the full payment of an attorney and all other necessary expenses of representation in defending against the charge.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense
Date: 2011
By: Norman Lefstein (Indiana University--Indianapolis Faculty)
Citation: (ABA 2011)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel.
Date: Apr. 14, 2009
By: National Right to Counsel Committee (The Constitution Project)
Citation: National Right to Counsel Committee, Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel (2009)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  The Third Generation of Indigent Defense Litigation
New York University Review of Law and Social Change
Date: 2009
By: Cara Drinan (Columbus School of Law, Catholic University Faculty)
Citation: 33 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 427 (2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Indigent Defense Reform: The Role of Systemic Litigation in Operationalizing the Gideon Right to Counsel
Date: May 7, 2007
By: Vidhya K. Reddy (Washington University in St. Louis Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

Docket(s)
CV-OC-2015-10240 (State Trial Court)
PD-ID-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/24/2016
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
Class Action Complaint
PD-ID-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/17/2015
Order Granting Motion to Dismiss
PD-ID-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/20/2016
Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiae Supporting Plaintiffs-Appellants
PD-ID-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/12/2016
Source: ACLU
Opinion (394 P.3d 54)
PD-ID-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/28/2017
Source: State Court Website
show all people docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ali, Kathryn M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0001
Calderon, Tovah R. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0004
Eppink, Richard Allen (Idaho) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0001 | PD-ID-0001-9000
Ladine, Bret H. (California) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0001
Lillie, Andrew C. (Colorado) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0001
Monta, Christine A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0004
Shen, Jenny Q. (California) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0001
Stoughton, Corey L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0004
Williamson, Jason D. (New York) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Cantrill, David William (Idaho) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-9000
Olson, Wendy J. (Idaho) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-0004
Skinner, Daniel Joseph (Idaho) show/hide docs
PD-ID-0001-9000

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