Quarterly Newsletter: Spring 2019
Spotlight
Welcome to the first edition of the new quarterly e-newsletter for the Right to Counsel National Campaign!
 
Today, the 56 th Anniversary of the landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright and National Public Defense Day, is dedicated to the hardworking public defense providers and the invaluable role they play in protecting our liberty and the constitutional right to counsel.
 
To celebrate and recognize this day, the Right to Counsel (R2C) National Campaign, led by the Justice Programs Office (JPO) at American University, is excited to release a new report, Engaging Key System Actors in Support of the Right to Counsel , in coordination with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Legal Aid & Defender Association.
 
The report presents findings from a series of six roundtable discussions with key criminal justice system actors: from court administrators, state prosecutors, the law enforcement community, representatives from state administering agencies, county officials, and judges. The roundtables were held to determine perceptions of the effectiveness of public defense delivery systems, the most pressing challenges, possible solutions to improving public defense, and what role they can play in advancing improvements and ensuring the constitutional right to counsel.
 
The report findings showed:
  • This fundamental right [the constitutional right to counsel] is threatened when public defenders have too few resources and too many cases to adequately represent their clients.
  • Providing more support for public defense will help our courts to run more efficiently and improve the quality of justice—and that will benefit every American.
  • Providing competent legal representation is necessary to prevent innocent people from going to jail and will help reduce over-incarceration.
 
The report is the second report released by the R2C National Campaign as part of our ongoing effort to raise awareness about the constitutional right to counsel and effective public defense systems. The first report, Americans’ Views on Public Defenders and the Right to Counsel , was released in 2017 along with an accompanying message guide .
 
We hope these three documents will be used by advocates, policymakers, practitioners, and the public to raise awareness and improve public defense delivery systems by identifying baseline knowledge, key messages, shared values, challenges, and solutions. Together, we can change our policies and practices to ensure that the application and the idea of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel is meaningfully achieved.
 
Happy #PublicDefenseDay! Thank you to all public defense providers for your active commitment to protecting the rights of the accused.
 
-Genevieve Citrin Ray, MPP
Project Director, Right to Counsel National Campaign.
News

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Two recent opinions by Justice Clarence Thomas should alarm us all
Justice Clarence Thomas has written two alarming opinions that call into question fundamental constitutional protections. He has disputed the right to counsel for those accused of crimes and called for revisiting fundamental press freedoms. https://lat.ms/2Tbogi5
 
'A model for America': the criminal justice reformer who inspired a generation
He [Jeff Adachi] leaves behind a legacy of “guarding against government abuses”. He leaves behind a robust public defender’s office whose budget he tripled in the almost 17 years he oversaw it. He also leaves behind a dream for more – and, he would have argued, a need for more. https://bit.ly/2XDPb9J
 
Bill would expand legal services to all crimes
Proposed legislation would require public defender legal services to any needy person in Vermont charged with a crime, not just those deemed to be serious offenses and carry the risk of jail time. https://bit.ly/2W2oOsu
 
Governor’s budget includes higher wage for lawyers representing poor people
The hourly wage of private attorneys representing poor defendants would rise 75 percent under the biennial budget Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers proposed last week. Lawyers, however, say the move, while a step in the right direction, won’t solve the problem of delayed justice in the cases of indigent defendants. https://bit.ly/2Ck33Ny
Legislative Updates
Since hearing from us in October, there have been several important updates in the movement to support the right to counsel. States that have taken steps to enshrine a stronger right to counsel are Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, West Virginia, and the United States Congress. Common trends that were seen throughout the legislation were the establishment of state funds and indigent defense commissions to assist counties with the costs of providing public defense services (Indiana, Nebraska, Nevada), higher standards and safeguards for the waiving of representation for a minor (Arkansas, Illinois, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Virginia) and reform away from using strict monetary bail systems (Texas, New York). Learn more about the specific bills here .
Member Updates & Resources
The National Association for Court Management (NACM) published a guide for plain language usage to make justice more accessible for all people.
 
RAND published a report regarding the Bronx Defender’s successes in the realm of holistic public defense. According to the report, Bronx Defenders have been able to save their clients $1.1 million days behind bars. In addition, the Bronx Defenders, through their holistic defender model, were able to reduce incarceration rates by 16%, cut pretrial detention by 9%, shorten sentence length by 24% and saved New York taxpayers $165 million dollars in housing expenses.
 
The Texas Indigent Defense Commission published a report on how Texas addresses mental illness and crime, explores the benefits of mental health defender programs, and examines the operations of several defender programs. Ultimately, TIDC hopes this publication will encourage wider adoption of mental health defender programs.
Events
Save the date! R2C is hitting the road and will be speaking at the National Association for Court Management Annual Conference in Las Vegas on Monday July 22 at 3.00PM PST at a session entitled Enhancing Caseflow Management to Ensure the Right to Counsel. Courts can face competing interests while coordinating processes to ensure proceedings progress efficiently (ex. supporting prompt resolution of cases and effective assistance of counsel that may cause delays). If these things aren’t addressed tensions can emerge. This session will explore how to reengineer court operations to ease this, enhancing caseflow management to ensure the right to counsel. Stay tuned for more information and check here to learn more about the conference.
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