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.
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.
Anyone arrested in New York City is entitled to three phone calls. One of them ought to be to 1-833-3-GOODCALL, a 24-hour hotline started in the Bronx last fall that links an accused criminal to public defenders.
The city’s chief public defender says 52 attorneys are responsible for 20,000 criminal cases each year. He says the New Orleans courts have become a criminal processing system–“a conveyor belt that starts when you are arrested.”
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]