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Courts and Crime

The Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services prepares to be sued by the ACLU

The director of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services says he’s expecting a lawsuit from the ACLU that will cite deficiencies in the legal representation provided to low-income defendants facing criminal charges.

The lawsuit has loomed over the commission for several years and its prospects intensified in 2019 when the Sixth Amendment Center issued a report that was highly critical of Maine's unique system of providing legal defense for the poor.

During a public meeting Monday, commission director Justin Andrus said he believes that the agency overseeing the program has made improvements since then.

"It remains my view that our attorneys tend to be doing good work and that we've gotten better and better at being able to show that we're ensuring compliance with that," he said. "But it does appear that the ACLU will be bringing that action imminently."

Maine is the only state in the country that contracts with defense attorneys to provide legal defense for low-income residents.

The system has come under scrutiny for billing issues and the supervision of its contracted attorneys.

The ACLU of Maine has scheduled a press briefing for Tuesday morning to discuss what it described as a constitutional challenge to state practices.