Lawyers Oppose Idea of Commission to Study Indigent-Defense System Flaws


A group of well-known lawyers is opposing a proposal by other advocates to create a bipartisan White House commission to study flaws in the nation’s indigent defense system. The effort, which includes former Vice President Walter Mondale, was reported yesterday in Crime & Justice News in a summary of a story from NPR. This week, the opposition group wrote U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, saying, that “There is no need for another commission to study the glaring deficiencies in indigent defense that you have spoken about repeatedly and are not disputed.” The group said naming another panel would be like “a commission to study whether the use of tobacco products has an impact on health. Beyond that, it is hard to conceive that the preordained recommendations of such a commission, which would likely not come until near the end of this Administration, would have any chance of being enacted in the ongoing fiscal crisis.”

Instead, federal resources should be spent funding people and programs in areas of need, the group said. Signers were Marc Bookman of the Atlantic Center for Capital Representation, Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights, David Bruck of Washington and Lee University law school, Richard Bourke of the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, G. Ben Cohen of the Capital Appeals Project, Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, George H. Kendall of Squire Sanders, Sarah Ottinger of The Promise of Justice Initiative, Virginia Sloan of The Constitution Project, and Law Prof. Robert John Smith of the University of North Carolina.

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