Antrell Thomas et al vs. Anthony S. Evers et al

2022CV001027 (Brown County Cir.)

In response to the ongoing crisis in Wisconsin where thousands of people facing criminal charges are waiting for lawyers to be assigned to their cases, NACDL, our Wisconsin affiliate (WACDL), the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law at NYU School of Law, and the Chicago office of Winston & Strawn filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in Brown County (Green Bay), one of the many counties in the state struggling to find lawyers for every eligible individual, leaving people waiting weeks, months, and in some instances, a year or more, for a lawyer.


The suit alleges violations of the right to counsel and requests class certification on behalf of all individuals in the state waiting 14 days or more to have a lawyer assigned to their case and seeks relief including:

  • Declaring the delays in receiving appointed counsel violate the right to counsel under the United States and Wisconsin Constitutions.
  • Enjoining the state from administering the current public defense system insofar as it deprives eligible individuals from timely receiving counsel.
  • Directing the establishment of a constitutional public defense system.
  • Directing the State Public Defender to move to dismiss the cases of those without counsel on the basis that their right to counsel is violated when counsel is not promptly provided.

Review the case filings

Media Coverage

NACDL in Wisconsin

State v. Nhia Lee
2018 Assigned Counsel Rate Petition
Wisconsin Bail Manual (October 2018)


Other Public Defense System Litigation of Note

David v. Missouri 20AC-CC00093 (Cole County Cir. Feb. 6, 2023) judgment holding “the State fails in its obligation to provide counsel when it fails to provide counsel . . . within . . . [a] two week period, as such a failure falls below the minimal obligation placed upon the State to appoint counsel within a reasonable time after attachment.” The Court found delays of assigning counsel of more than 2 weeks violated the Missouri Constitution’s right to counsel. Although the state currently has no individuals on its waiting list, the court nevertheless recognized the “history of providing defense counsel for indigent defendants in Missouri is replete with claims of inadequate resources for providing effective representation,” making it critical to address the future use of waiting lists.

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