Friday, January 28, 2011

San Francisco defenders demonstrate the importance of zealous advocacy

Our American system of justice presumes that law enforcement officials are human, and thus fallible.  Despite the overall dedication and professionalism of the hundreds of thousands of citizens employed in the police and prosecution functions in this country, it is simply impossible to always arrest and prosecute the right defendant for the right crime in every single instance.  If errorless law enforcement existed, there would be no need for a jury of one’s peers to weigh the evidence in a case before an impartial judge.

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11:38 AM
Thursday, January 27, 2011

Debate on Massachusetts public defense proposal continues

The discussion about Massachusetts Gov. Patrick's proposed changes to the state's public defender system continues. Today, David Carroll, NLADA research director and author of Gideon Alerts, appeared on WBUR's Radio Boston show to provide national context to the discussion (stream online here).

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6:16 PM
Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Coloradoans requiring public defense attorneys

The Denver Post reports that, even as the number of criminal prosecutions across the state has decreased, the Colorado State Public Defender is facing a record-high number of clients to defend.  This paradox, likely common throughout the nation, has a simple explanation.  The downturn in the economy has caused many people to lose their jobs, which in turn means that more people are falling into poverty.  When these people are cited or arrested for alleged violations of the law, increasingly larger percentages of them qualify for public representation.  So, even as fewer people overall are being prosecuted, more and more of them are financially incapable of hiring a private attorney.

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4:22 PM
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gideon Alert: National Association of Counties calls for improved public defense services

On January 19, 2011, the National Association of Counties (NACo) called upon the United States Department of Justice to assist rural counties in overcoming systemic deficiencies that prevent them from meeting the states’ obligation to provide constitutionally-mandated indigent defense services.  Founded in 1935, NACo is the only national organization that represents county governments in the United States and provides essential services to America’s 3,068 counties.  In their press release, NACo recommends funding pilot public defender programs to serve multi-county jurisdictions, while reminding counties of NACo’s policy that public defenders be active participants in all criminal justice planning at the local level.

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2:42 PM
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gideon Alert: MA Governor proposes disbanding statewide defender commission

On January 24, 2011, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick proposed sweeping changes to the delivery of indigent defense services in the state.  Changes include abolishing the existing independent commission that oversees the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) and creating a new public defender department under the executive branch.  The Governor would also end CPCS’ primary reliance on the private bar and instead provide most services through full-time staffed public defender offices.  Under the Governor’s plan, the new department would also be responsible for conducting eligibility screening and collecting fees from indigent clients for services.

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11:50 AM
Friday, January 21, 2011

Louisiana seeks more effective sentencing; partners with Pew Center

The Times-Picayune reports the state of Louisiana is partnering with the Pew Center on the States in an effort to reduce the state's overall prison population, and reduce recidivism. The project comes as the state, like so many others across the nation, is facing a major budget shortfall; in Louisiana's case, $1.6 billion.

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10:53 AM