Target: Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives
Goal: Regulate caseloads and standards of public defenders across the country in order to provide every accused individual the right to fair and just due process.
In 1963 the landmark case of Gideon vs. Wainwright led the United States Supreme Court to rule that effective defense counsel is the only means to ensure justice for all parties. In the case that an individual accused of a crime is unable to pay for a defense attorney, it is the duty of the county to appoint one. Individuals who have been arrested have the right to an attorney present during any and all times of being questioned by police or detectives as well as have fair representation in court.
In reality, the quality of defense that defendants are receiving from these court-appointed attorneys is extremely poor. The national standard limits felony caseloads to 150 per year in order to provide sufficient representation. The average public defender has around 600 felony cases per year, with the New York Times reporting caseloads of 1,600 per year, more than ten times the national standard. When public defenders are so overloaded, they do not have the opportunity to even speak with their clients at times, essentially failing them in proper defense.
Furthermore, the balance of spending between prosecution and defense is often extremely unbalanced. Most American citizens support balanced funding, but the average government spends three times as much on prosecution as on defense. This disallows defense attorneys from acquiring necessary legal research, scientific testing, or experts necessary to provide a just case for the defendant. The people who then suffer from these inequalities are the poor who are suspected or accused of a crime who then receive unjust representation.
By signing the petition below, you will demand that the United States Congress reform regulations on public defenders. Every individual deserves the right to a fair due process, and the standards for public defenders must be raised.
Dear Speaker Ryan,
The United States Supreme Court determined that every person has the right to a fair trial with adequate representation. Currently, this is not the case with the impoverished suspected or accused of a crime. Public defenders are absolutely overloaded with cases, with some being assigned 1,600 felony cases per year, over ten times the national standard limit. Furthermore, public defenders only receive about a quarter of governmental funding allotted to public attorneys.
With public defenders being so overloaded, they are unable to perform even basic tasks that are the right of the defendant: for example, speaking with the defendant before appearing in court. Defendants are also not receiving proper representation with the defense attorneys so significantly underfunded. Defense attorneys are not capable of funding the legal research, scientific testing, or expert witnesses required to fairly represent their client.
I am urging you to further regulate the standards for public defenders across the nation. Please take actions to enforce policies that provide all accused persons with the right to just due process.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Succo