Constitution Project Applauds DOJ Initiative to Improve Indigent Defense

Justice Denied Report Demonstrates Urgent Need for Federal Action

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Matthew Allee,  (202) 580-6922 or mallee@constitutionproject.org

WASHINGTON – In Justice Denied: America’s Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel, a bipartisan committee of experts sponsored by the Constitution Project recommends urgent federal attention to the crisis in our country’s indigent defense system. The Justice Department’s appointment of Harvard law professor Laurence H. Tribe to lead an effort to improve access to lawyers for those unable to afford one is an important step toward fulfilling the recommendations of the National Right to Counsel Committee.

The news comes just a week after the Justice Department held a two-day symposium on what Attorney General Eric Holder called the “crisis” facing the indigent defense system in the United States. Titled “Looking Back, Looking Forward,” the gathering was the first federal agency-sponsored examination of indigent defense in a decade.

“I hope Professor Tribe’s new duties will spur increased Justice Department efforts to remedy the crisis in our country’s indigent defense system,” said Virginia Sloan, president of the Constitution Project. “We can no longer tolerate overburdened and under-resourced lawyers representing the poor in criminal cases. Federal leadership, and federal funding, are essential to ensuring that the states comply with the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel.”

In April 2009, the Constitution Project’s National Right to Counsel Committee released Justice Denied: America’s Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel, the most comprehensive report on indigent defense in 30 years. The report makes 22 recommendations for much-needed reforms to indigent defense systems nationwide, including recommendations for the federal government’s leadership role in indigent defense reform. The National Right to Counsel Committee is a bipartisan committee of independent experts representing all segments of America’s justice system including judges, prosecutors and academics.

To view a copy of Justice Denied, go to: http://www.tcpjusticedenied.org

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