Prosecutor Asks Whether DOJ Would Support More Funds For Local DAs


The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed four “statements of interest” in local court reform cases in the past two years, a time in which bipartisan support has emerged for a renewed examination of how local and state governments are providing legal representation to the poor. “It's very much like having an amicus brief, but it's an amicus brief by the United States Department of Justice,” Norman Reimer of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers tells ProPublica. “That carries a lot of weight. No municipality or state wants to be found to be violating Constitutional rights in the eyes of the Justice Department.”

Joshua Marquis, district attorney in Clatsop County, Or., and executive committee member of the National District Attorneys Association, considers problematic indigent defense systems more episodic than epidemic. “The idea that this is somehow symptomatic of some sort of major civil rights emergency in America is just plain crazy,” he said. Where smaller jurisdictions lack funding for indigent defense, it follows that the prosecutors in those same jurisdictions lack funding, too. “To me, that's just as dire a problem,” said Marquis, “and since, frankly, most victims are poor people and people of color, I would be really impressed to see the United States Justice Department pick that up.”

Comments are closed.