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About this project

In the United States, you have the right to an attorney, even if you cannot afford one. This right is foundational to our system of justice as reflected in the United States Constitution, and is essential to who we are as a people.

But across New York State, if you're poor and you enter New York State's broken criminal justice system, justice is a gamble. Every day across parts of the state, people who have never been convicted of a crime languish in jail. They go before judges without lawyers by their sides. And they plead innocent or guilty without understanding what it means for them and their families. Innocent or guilty, New Yorkers are too often undefended and alone.

And New York State has been ignoring its duties and allowing this injustice to perpetuate for more than 50 years.

The Wheel of Justice campaign is intended to shine a light on the urgent need to reform New York's broken public defense system. The vignettes featured on the Wheel are based on the true stories of real New Yorkers whose lives have been impacted and even ruined because they did not have access to adequate public defense services.

Their stories came to light through Hurrell-Harring et al. v. State of New York, a class action lawsuit challenging New York State's failure to provide effective counsel to poor New Yorkers accused of crimes. The case was filed in 2007 by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP. This fall, the case will finally have its day in court. The trial will be the first of its kind in the nation.