Advocates Seek National Commission on Legal Aid for Poor Defendants


Prominent lawyers are pressuring the Obama administration to do more to ensure that poor criminal defendants have access to a lawyer, reports NPR. Calls to create a bipartisan White House commission began with the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright that called for public defenders for persons accused of non-capital offenses. This week, advocates met with Associate U.S. Attorney General Tony West to push for the commission. Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Sue Bell Cobb, former Vice President Walter Mondale, New York indigent legal services director William Leahy, and Equal Justice Initiative Director Bryan Stevenson want the Obama administration to establish a National Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice for the Indigent Accused. David Carroll of the Sixth Amendment Foundation says the most prevalent form of indigent counsel services is for attorneys to handle an unlimited number of cases for a single flat fee under contract to a judge or county manager. He says, “This model produces a financial conflict of interest in which the less amount of resources or effort the attorney puts into the case, the more he puts in his own pocket.”

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