A proposed class action filed in New York’s Northern District alleges Onondaga County and its sheriff and chief executive have unlawfully denied juvenile offenders the right to private counsel with an attorney at the Youth Part of the City of Syracuse Criminal Courthouse and the Hillbrook Juvenile Detention Facility. As a matter of policy, the case claims, law enforcement officers and sheriff’s department personnel remain in the room when defense attorneys meet with their clients, which the lawsuit argues interferes with the teenagers’ right to private counsel and impedes “meaningful conversation” between the parties.
The lawsuit alleges that the presence of law enforcement and other third parties during attorney/defendant interviews prevents attorneys from establishing trust with their clients and consequently discourages the teenagers from sharing material information that could help their attorneys secure a better outcome in their cases. The issue, at its core, is a constitutional one, the suit claims.
“Defendants’ policies not only render the Sixth Amendment’s guarantee of assistance of counsel meaningless by destroying confidentiality, they also irreparably damage the attorney-client relationship by chilling Plaintiffs’ willingness to discuss their case with their assigned attorney,” the complaint reads.
An uninformed attorney, the case says, is less prepared to contest pretrial detention for his or her client, which could increase the likelihood of “a poor outcome” in the teenager’s case.
Law enforcement officers refuse to leave the interview room even when attorneys demand privacy, the lawsuit alleges, making it “impossible for Plaintiffs to meaningfully communicate with their attorneys.”