scales of justice

Legal Aid for Capital Punishment Cases Depends on Where You Live: Study

A pro-death penalty “punitive culture” in some federal jurisdictions ensures that poor defendants in capital punishment cases never get the quality of public defense they are entitled to, argues a study published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. The authors say their findings help explain the stark racial disparities in the application of death sentences across the U.S.

Constitution Hall

Fix Your ‘Failing’ Public Defense System, ACLU Tells Nevada

A class-action lawsuit charging Nevada with violating its constitutional responsibility to ensure all citizens receive equal treatment before the law is aimed at pushing the state to fix its “utterly failing” public defense system, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). It’s the eighth such suit launched by the ACLU against states and counties.

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Why Public Defenders Are Themselves Being Sued

It is the duty of a public defender to defend people in court, but it’s becoming increasingly common for these defenders to have to defend themselves, reports the Christian Science Monitor. With public defense offices overworked and underpaid to the point of a “national crisis,” says former Attorney General Eric Holder, they are finding an unlikely ally in their efforts to gain the budgets and staffing necessary: the people who are suing them. This may be why Derwyn Bunton, chief […]


Overwhelmed KY Public Defenders Mean Suspects Wrongly Imprisoned

The harried schedule of a Kentucky public defender juggling more than 30 cases underscores a problem the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy has grappled with for decades: Too many clients and not enough money mean public defenders are being stretched too thin, putting the quality of representation at risk, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. Tim Young, chairman of the National Association for Public Defense, said the constitutional issues for indigent defendants across the nation are serious: “It means people are going […]


Fixes Urged For UT Misdemeanor Defendants Who Lack Attorneys

Most defendants go through Utah's misdemeanor courts without an attorney, says a new report, echoing concerns about the court system nationally, says the Wall Street Journal. The Supreme Court says that a misdemeanor defendant facing potential jail time has a right to an attorney under the Sixth Amendment, and if he can't afford one, the government must provide counsel. Yet the millions of misdemeanor cases annually, accounting for 70 percent or more of criminal cases, often overwhelm available resources. The […]


Lawyers Say Federal Defenders Need More Money, Less Judicial Control

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers contends that the federal government’s system for defending poor people needs to change. NPR says a new study by the group said judges who are supposed to be neutral arbiters too often put their fingers on the scales. The report said defense lawyers for the poor who work in the federal court system need more resources to do their jobs. That means money, not just for themselves, but to pay for experts and […]


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. […]