ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Public defenders across the state now have more backing to decline cases if their caseload is too high to effectively represent their clients.
The state’s Public Defender Commission, which oversees the Law Offices of the Public Defender, voted Friday to approve a case refusal protocol to guide Chief Public Defender Ben Baur and the department’s staff in deciding when it is acceptable to decline taking new clients.
Public defenders in some southern New Mexican counties attempted to decline new clients in 2016 at Baur’s instruction. The effort was denied and Baur was held in contempt of court.
Baur and 5th Judicial District Attorney Dianne Luce took the issue to the state Supreme Court, which said the parties should seek other solutions to adjusting the caseload issue.