Director of the Center's Local Human Rights Lawyering Project attends a recent event at the U.S. Department of Justice considering the future of indigent defense fifty years after Gideon v. Wainwright

 

Director of the Center’s Local Human Rights Lawyering Project, Lauren Bartlett, was given a special invitation and attended an event on March 15, 2013, at the Department of Justice, Considering Gideon at 50: the History and Future of Indigent Defense. Fifty years ago in the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court held that there is a Constitutional right to an attorney and that preserving due process rights requires an attorney be provided if a client cannot afford one.  While Gideon established the right to counsel in criminal prosecutions, the Court’s later decision in Strickland v. Washington adopted a very low standard for determining whether the right to effective counsel has been satisfied. Public defenders throughout the country are underfunded and overworked; in New Orleans, public defenders have an average of seven minutes to handle each case. Without additional resources and support, indigent defendants will continue to be denied true access to the adversarial process. Today only 10-20% of the legal needs of the poor are met in the U.S. In an effort to address this disparity, Attorney General Holder announced nearly $2 million in grants to strengthen legal services of the poor.