Lawyer threatening suit over contracting out public defending in Philadelphia

A local attorney is promising a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia if it creates a back-up to the Public Defender office.  It concerns times when conflicts of interest bar the usual defenders from taking the case. 

Attorney Sam Stretton said he is readying the suit because Philadelphia is taking bids from outfits to take these cases instead of having judges dole them out to individual lawyers.

“The mayor’s office is doing this in an attempt to save money and have a cheaper system,” Stretton said. “It’s just not going to work and it’s just going to have a terrible impact on the right to counsel.”

The Nutter administration insists the primary goal is doing a better job, not saving money. Stretton said he believes he knows how anyone who will bid on the contract will act.

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“People are going to hire, if they get a bid, will hire very inexperienced people at very low rates, try these kind of cases, it’s just not effective. The mayor’s office, if they were serious, would have sat down with people like myself and others who have done this work for years, created the current system and were involved with the earlier systems,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison, who is overseeing the process, said getting one outfit to take the 20,000 to 30,000 cases of this type each year would bring the chance to offer expertise and services that individual attorneys can’t.


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