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Case Name Alford v. Johnson County Commissioners PD-IN-0003
Docket / Court 73D01-1601-PL-000003 ( State Court )
State/Territory Indiana
Case Type(s) Indigent Defense
Case Summary
On October 8, 2015, a number of individuals who were arrested in Johnson County brought this lawsuit in Indiana Civil Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the Johnson County Commissioners as well as several judges and public defenders. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, ... read more >
On October 8, 2015, a number of individuals who were arrested in Johnson County brought this lawsuit in Indiana Civil Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law against the Johnson County Commissioners as well as several judges and public defenders. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, alleged a violation of their Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to counsel, a right also guaranteed under the Indiana Constitution (Art. 1 §13a). The suit alleged that the county had failed to impose reasonable caseload limits, had not established an oversight and monitoring system, and had not adequately funded the indigent defense system. The plaintiffs also alleged that the county operates a unconstitutional contract system that creates a conflict of interest between lawyers and judges: judges grant the public defense contracts and so attorneys might not fully advocate for their clients because they want to secure future contracts. The plaintiffs filed for class action status, but certification was not granted.

The case was opened as a new filing on January 21, 2016 in Indiana Superior Court, Shelby County. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on March 29, 2016 and after hearing, Judge Robert W. Freese dismissed the case on January 30, 2017. The trial court dismissed primarily on the basis of a legal precedent, Platt v. State, finding that the plaintiffs' cases were not yet ripe for review as they were active criminal proceedings in the pre-trial stage. The court ruled that the effectiveness of the county's trial counsel and the system should not be decided until the criminal cases were concluded. Additionally, although the plaintiffs argued that the appointment of counsel is not a judicial function, the court disagreed and ruled that the judicial defendants were immune from all damage suits.

The plaintiffs appealed on February 6, 2017; as of May 24, 2017, it seems the matter is still pending in Indiana's intermediate appellate court.

Abigail DeHart - 05/24/2017


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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
Conflict of interest
Funding
Quality of representation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Johnson County Commissioners
Plaintiff Description Individuals who were arrested in Johnson County, claiming they had not been adequately represented due to an underfunded and overburdened public defender system.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
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)
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)
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)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Remick v. Utah (2016)
By: ACLU of Utah
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Complaint
PD-IN-0003-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 08/08/2015
Order and Entry of Judgment on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
PD-IN-0003-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/30/2017
Order and Entry of Judgment on Judicial Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
PD-IN-0003-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/30/2017
Judges Freese, Robert W. Court not on record
PD-IN-0003-0002 | PD-IN-0003-0003
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adams, Samuel (Indiana)
PD-IN-0003-0001
Little, Jonathan (Indiana)
PD-IN-0003-0001
Sutherlin, Michael K. (Indiana)
PD-IN-0003-0001
Wegg, Jessica (Indiana)
PD-IN-0003-0001

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