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Lawyer files another lawsuit over low pay for public defenders

Lawyer files another lawsuit over low pay for public defenders



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OGDEN -- A lawyer has filed a second federal lawsuit claiming Ogden funds its public defenders so poorly it's unconstitutional.

The Standard-Examiner reports Michael Studebaker filed the latest lawsuit in federal court in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. It names Ogden city, its mayor and all seven council members as being responsible for poorly funding public defenders in Ogden Justice Court.

Studebaker claims when the cases pile up, his clients are the ones who suffer. Studebaker tells the paper his clients' rights to a speedy trial, a good lawyer and equal protection are not being met.

The ACLU says Utah spends less than half the national average to fund public defenders and they carry twice the caseload.

Studebaker sued Weber County and three county commissioners over low pay on Jan. 28. That lawsuit accuses the county of violating the 6th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution by not providing funding for defense attorneys to conduct investigations, use expert witnesses or hire paralegals.

The city offices did not return calls and Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey could not comment because he had not seen the latest lawsuit.

Studebaker says Ogden has a contract with a Layton lawyer for public defender services. Studebaker is one of several lawyers who alternate staffing the court but he is not a county public defender.

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