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The Champion

November 2016 , Page 18 

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NACDL News: Public Defense Lawsuit in Kuren v. Luzerne County Allowed to Move Forward

By Diane Price

Read more NACDL News columns.

On Sept. 28, 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a decision in Kuren v. Luzerne County, a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of indigent criminal defendants in Luzerne County, Pa. The lawsuit alleges that Luzerne County’s failure to adequately fund the Office of the Public Defender (OPD), despite repeated requests for additional funding and implementation of reasonable cost-cutting measures, has led to a system in which OPD is unable to fulfill its constitutional duty to provide adequate representation for indigent criminal defendants. The court, in a case of first impression, was called to address (1) whether plaintiff-appellants stated a claim for constructive denial of counsel and (2) whether a claim of mandamus to compel funding could be brought. The court’s holding recognized a cause of action for indigent defendants to seek prospective relief when insufficient county funding of public defense services leads to “widespread, systematic and constructive

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