A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that indigent defendants have an automatic right to a court-appointed attorney if they are trying to appeal a guilty plea.
The 7-5 decision by the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati vacates a July 2002 decision by a three-judge federal appeals panel.
That decision upheld a 2000 state law that in most cases prevented the appointment of lawyers to represent poor people who had put in guilty pleas.
The full court says that law is unconstitutional.
The state attorney general's office has not decided whether to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
An appeal must be filed within 90 days.
State officials estimate about 500 requests from defendants who pleased guilty for a court-appointed attorney have been denied between April 2000 and now.
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