The Morning Papers

So I notice in the ever-burgeoning number of briefs populating the Sun-Sentinel's local section one that seems way too interesting to limit to 100 words or less:

City sues public defender over refusal to take on code cases Fort Lauderdale has sued Public Defender Howard Finkelstein for his decision to stop representing the poor in cases in which they're charged only for municipal code violations. The city wants a court to force the Public Defender's Office to continue such representation.

Finkelstein informed Broward County cities of his decision March 22 and ceased representation May 3. Finkelstein said he no longer wanted to be part of a system he thinks targeted the homeless. Cities who want to prosecute the cases must hire private defense attorneys, he said.

The lawsuit, filed Monday, argues the public defender is legally bound to represent the poor in municipal code cases. Fort Lauderdale also sued the state's Justice Administrative Commission, arguing its refusal to pay for special public defenders is unconstitutional.

Here's a story with a good conflict, allegations of governmental abuse, and one of the most

important social issues of our day and it gets three paragraphs? Then I looked at the Miami Herald, which obviously agreed. Here's Diana Moskovitz's lede from this morning's newspaper:

"Broward's public defender says the city of Fort Lauderdale is throwing homeless people in jail on flimsy charges, and he wants it to stop."

Nice. Howard Finkelstein is basically charging that the city is using minor city ordinances to get homeless people off the street -- and into jail. Mayor James Naugle denies it but, Finkelstein backs his stance by noting that 85 percent of people jailed for violating ordinances were arrested in Fort Lauderdale proper.

Read the rest of Diana's story, headlined "Public defender, Lauderdale lock horns over homeless," here.

Now, I find another tiny story from the Sentinel on the topic, apparently from yesterday's newspaper. Now I'm wondering why they published two skinny pieces back-to-back. Is the paper that hard-up for fodder?

Also definitely worth reading this morning is Michael Mayo's column in the Sentinel about the murder of Wai Ho Ng, the restaurant owner who was shot and killed by a robber. Mayo, who has been vilified by right-wing readers for perceived liberal stances, wonders if the NRA hasn't been right all along.

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