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ACLU expands lawsuit against Maine over low-income defendants

The Kennebec County Superior Court on Friday granted the ACLU's motion to expand its lawsuit against the state for violating low-income defendants' Sixth Amendment rights.

The court's decision allows the ACLU to name Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey as a defendant and update allegations that the state is failing to provide attorneys to low-income defendants within a reasonable period after arrest. In addition, the ACLU can proceed on new unlawful detention claims against county sheriffs and the state for unconstitutionally imprisoning indigent defendants without providing counsel.

An ACLU of Maine report indicates that the number of people who have not been appointed an attorney has increased nearly 500% over the past six months, and that 144 people were in custody without legal representation.

The ACLU's initial lawsuit against the Maine Commission on Public Defense Services was filed in 2022.

The state attempted to prevent the case from going to trial by filing an appeal to dismiss. Earlier this month, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court dismissed that appeal.

The trial for the class-action lawsuit will begin in June.