What can be done when funds and public defenders are scarce? John Stuart, Minnesota State Public Defender, wrote an editorial in the Star Tribune back in March on the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright to call attention to the issues facing the public defense system in our nation. It seems, writes Stuart, that access to public counsel is at risk – both locally and nationally.
Gideon v. Wainwright established every person’s right to legal counsel, even if they couldn’t afford a lawyer. This right was already articulated in the U.S. constitution, but the 1963 Supreme Court case made state-appointed public defenders a legal right.
States want to provide quality legal defense, and Minnesota is no exception. In the face of what you might call a public defense crisis, Minnesota’s doing a lot – like providing well-educated, passionate people who practice law and work long hours every day to try and accomplish their case load.
But that’s the problem: really long hours. Minnesota public defense lawyers are overworked, trying to handle 250 new felony cases every year when the American Bar Association says 150 should be the limit.
Take a look at the infographic below, illustrating and summarizing the crisis on a local and national scale alike.
This infographic was created on behalf of the Law Office of Carolyn Agin Schmidt. Please share it so that more people can learn about the status of criminal representation in the U.S.