2009-08-20 / Local & State

PA Judges Oppose ACLU Bid To Free 18 Inmates

READING, Pa. (AP) - Judges in Berks County are asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to deny an American Civil Liberties Union request to free 18 indigent inmates who were not represented by lawyers when they were sentenced for failure to pay child support.

Berks County Judge Timothy Rowley, who presides over support cases, says state law does not require the court to provide lawyers in such cases. But he says the board of judges has decided to appoint them to avoid litigation.

So far, officials say, six have been released, five have been returned to jail and seven have hearings pending.

ACLU lawyer Mary Catherine Roper says she is pleased that the courts are assigning lawyers to represent the indigent. But she says the group will not drop the petition filed last month since some of the 18 are still incarcerated without having lawyers.

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