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'Gideon v. Wainwright' in the Age of a Public Defense Crisis


'Gideon v. Wainwright' in the Age of a Public Defense Crisis

Sara Mayeux

Until recently, Vermilion Parish, Louisiana—a Cajun enclave on the Gulf of Mexico—had ten public defenders to represent poor people facing criminal charges. Now, after a round of layoffs, Natasha George is the only one. As the New York Times recently reported, George has little choice but to place most of her would-be clients on a wait list.


I would think that legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing a lot of minor drug violations could go a long way toward alleviating public defenders' workloads.

Beyond that, I don't think this is rocket science. If a locality has X number of prosecutors, it should have X number of public defenders minus a reasonable, verifiable amount to even caseloads between a typical PD and typical ADA to account for the fact that some defendants will hire private attorneys. Make federal grants to state prisons contingent on providing this adequate public defense and watch the states fall in line quickly.


Interesting idea sosa, unfortunately, though I suspect there isn't anyone who is
not aware of the typical "reading of one's rights" the result of Gideon v Wainwright" one must look to which entity creates the budget that has made
a farce of the long ago decision by the Supremes. In California it is the
County Board of Supervisors who make the decision how to budget the funds.
On a single occasion in the process of speaking to that elected group, "law
and order" was always the winner with the funding provided for hiring prosecutors vs defense attorneys was typically 10 to 1. The result was for the most part being able to avoid the expense of trials by primarily forcing the over burdened defenders pushing clients to "cop a plea" creating what is truly
a huge savings in providing "criminal justice" in a dual manner.


A transaction tax on Wall St. could produce income for such a fund. Right now the criminals are running the nation and rewriting its laws to suit their own criminal conduct.


Thanks for bringing further attention to this issue. It is, in my limited experience, a huge problem. Overstaffed defense attorneys miss meetings with clients, rush to find a plea deal, if they even give that much attention to their clients, it is still a dehumanizing and hope-sucking ordeal. Tripling available funds sounds like a good start. The problem is huge and largely unseen. Constitutional rights at stake, folks.


Bomb one less country next year. Savings 1 trillion dollars. Get Universal health care and and Public defenders for all and have money left over.