Friday, January 9, 2015

Gideon’s Despair | The Marshall Project

Four things the new A.G. needs to know:
#1. The public defense community does not need to hear from you … judges do.
#2. The public defense community does not need to hear from you … prosecutors do.
#3: Any broad criminal justice reforms you favor will fail without first fixing the indigent defense crisis.
4. The right to counsel is a non-partisan issue.
Gideon’s Despair | The Marshall Project
by David Carroll (Director - the Sixth Amendment Center)
 "Fifty years after the U.S. Supreme Court first determined in Gideon v. Wainwright that states are responsible for providing public lawyers to poor defendants, the U.S. Department of Justice has found that right-to-counsel services in America “exist in a state of crisis.” The method through which public counsel is provided to the indigent accused is described alternatively in DOJ speeches as “inadequate,” “broken,” and “unjust,” with “devastating” consequences for both the defendant and society as a whole. The situation is “unacceptable,” “unconscionable,” “morally untenable,” “economically unsustainable,” and “unworthy of a legal system that stands as an example to all the world.” The DOJ’s words are justified. Today, many courts across the country fail to provide any lawyers at all, despite the constitutional imperative to do so. Those that do often appoint lawyers who are so financially conflicted, or who juggle so many cases at once, that defendants have in effect no legal counsel advocating on their behalf. This leads to one of two results. Either the courts experience inordinate delays, with defendants waiting months in jail at taxpayers’ expense, or our courts become assembly lines to process poor people into jail or prison without adequately sorting the guilty from the innocent. Neither is acceptable. When an innocent person sits behind bars awaiting his day in court or is wrongfully incarcerated because his or her attorney did not have the time, ability, or resources to do the job right, the real perpetrator remains on the streets to continue endangering public safety. Over the past six years, the DOJ under Attorney General Eric Holder has launched numerous offensives to make the promise of Gideon a reality in America. The Civil Rights Division was granted authority to initiate legal actions challenging the defective juvenile courts in Tennessee and Missouri. In ACLU class action lawsuits in New York and Washington, the DOJ entered statements of interest calling for effective indigent defense systems and limiting the workload of court-appointed attorneys. Mr. Holder created the Access to Justice initiative to work across federal agencies on this issue while supporting state and local governments in providing public lawyers in criminal matters. Federal grants and discretionary indigent defense funding increased at the Office of Justice Programs. And DOJ hosted a 50-state Indigent Defense Symposium that spawned numerous local reforms. Even as we thank Mr. Holder for all that he has done in support of the constitutional right to counsel, the depth and breadth of the issues undermining Gideon require still more from the next attorney general. Now that a nominee has been named to replace Eric Holder, here are the four things the next Attorney General needs to know:"

'via Blog this'

No comments:

Post a Comment