March 18th marked the 56th anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court case Gideon v. Wainwright and National Public Defense Day. As a former investigator for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, current project director of the Right to Counsel National Campaign, justice reform advocate, and American citizen, I am proud to celebrate the public defense community and the clients – which could be any of us – they represent. Continue reading “In Defense of Public Defense”
This March, the Right to Counsel National Campaign (R2C) has embraced the 55th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright as an opportunity to reflect on what quality public defense looks like, the impact it has on individual clients’ lives, and the work that needs to be done to fully realize the intent of the Gideon decision.
For young kids, learning about careers usually means learning about teachers, doctors, nurses, firemen, police officers, etc. So, a couple of years ago, when my then six-year-old son asked me to describe what I do, I really had to think about it. As well as being the project director of the National Drug Court Resource Center, my work at the Justice Programs Office (JPO) encompasses other areas of the criminal justice policy field.
This is how I answered him:
If you were arrested and charged with a crime, would you know what to do? If you were brought into a courtroom in handcuffs, told to stand straight, look up at a judge, and listen to a prosecutor dressed in a suit make statements about your character and accusing you of a crime, would you know how to react? What if you had someone next to you, who was familiar with the process and the court actors, telling you it was okay and that s/he was there to support and advocate for you, would that change how you felt? That is the power of Gideon.