Judge tosses lawsuit over your right to a lawyer in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has tossed a lawsuit alleging Utah is not doing enough to address people’s constitutional right to a lawyer, if they can’t afford one.

In a ruling issued Monday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson dismissed the lawsuit filed on behalf of William Cox and Edward Paulus, who are facing criminal charges in Washington County. In a 16-page ruling, he said the men’s cases had not yet been adjudicated and they have not claimed their court-appointed lawyers are inferior.

“Cox and Paulus have counsel,” Judge Benson wrote. “Neither has alleged that he has not been represented at any point in his proceeding. Both of their criminal cases are pending and neither has been convicted or sentenced.”

Ogden attorney Michael Studebaker, who is representing the men, told FOX 13 on Monday he was reviewing his options for appeal.

Studebaker filed the lawsuit after a series of audits blasted Utah’s indigent defense system as inadequate, and raised questions about people’s Sixth Amendment constitutional rights being violated. He argued that court-appointed defense attorneys are overworked and underfunded. During a hearing in July, he argued the state budgeted $18 million for prosecutors — and zero for public defense attorneys.

A separate lawsuit has been filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah over the right to counsel.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office argued in court that people are getting legal representation and any reforms to the state’s public defender system are best made by the Utah State Legislature.

Read the ruling by the judge over indigent defense here: