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Massachusetts Democrat Pushes Bill to Cut Free Legal Aid
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In a move that denies one of the most important precepts of liberalism, Massachusetts state Rep. David Linsky has filed a legislation that bases provisioning legal aid, not solely upon the economic condition of the defendant, but whether the defendant is facing jail time or not. The bill calls for judges to deny free legal aid to poor defendants who are not facing jail time.

The Natick Democrat told the media that “To continue spending $200 million on court-appointed lawyers for the indigent strains the state budget … it is important to ensure residents of the Commonwealth that this appropriation is being used in the most cost-effective way so the budget can continue to fund the many programs that so many of our citizens depend on.”

Linsky, who along with his team has proposed that indigent defendants charged with misdemeanors unlikely to lead to prison time should be deprived of court appointed lawyers regardless of their economic abilities.

  
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“We’ve identified 41 very minor offenses that wouldn’t be eligible for court-appointed counsel. In 99 percent of the cases, they don’t lead to jail time … If public counsels were to be appointed in fewer cases, I believe we could see savings of upwards of $10 million” added Linsky.

However, detractors say there would always be abuses in any system and gutting the entire system for punishing those who abuse it is uncalled for. Detractors also have expressed that if there are 41 offenses identified which in 99 percent cases do not lead to jail time, then decriminalizing such offenses would lead to an even greater savings for the system, and freedom from statute created penalties that were not rooted in social mores. Such crimes then should be penalized only by fines without engaging the time of the judicial system. Also, the possibility of prison time in lieu of non-payment of fines needs to be removed if Linsky’s logic is to be accepted.

However, Linsky holds that the legislature is with him and the state would soon see radical changes in the process of providing lawyers to the defendants.

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Linsky also told the media that his proposal has met with ‘limited objections’ as legal advocates feel it would let them concentrate on the most serious cases.

While the majority of lawyers do agree that there are many, in fact thousands of cases of misdemeanor that should really be considered as civil infractions, it seems presumptuous to believe that scholars of law and the judiciary would approve a system of ‘aid’ which denies primary consideration of the economic condition of a defendant but considers the nature of the offense to determine aid.





 

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