Support the Right for Public Defenders to Form a Union

Target: Governor of Colorado, Jared Polis

Goal: Give public defenders the right to negotiate for better conditions.

Public defense attorneys work incredibly hard to give everyone a fair shake in the justice system. Unfortunately, with the astounding number of cases they have to juggle, they don’t have time to give every client their full attention. This is part of why the overwhelming majority of cases never go to trial, and many, especially the poor, are encouraged to plea guilty regardless of whether they actually did the crime.

Colorado public defenders have it especially bad. According to the Denver Post, lawyers like Matt Haugen have put their personal lives completely on hold and delay surgeries multiple times to keep up with the endless case load. Resources are limited, and paralegals are often paid worse than gas station attendants. This is why they are demanding a right to unionize.

Unfortunately, in the 2022 Colorado legislative session, governor Jared Polis gutted a bill that would have allowed public employees to unionize. Now, it’s an uphill battle for public defenders in Colorado to join their fellows in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maryland to collectively bargain for control over their working conditions.

Sign this petition and demand that Polis support labor rights for public workers and open the door to legislation that would let public defenders unionize.


Dear Governor Jared Polis,

In May, with the stroke of a pen, you signed one of the most substantial expansions of collective bargaining rights in recent history into law. Over 36,000 essential county workers now have a right to collectively bargain over their workplace conditions because of you. At the same time, you were the motivating factor behind a major scaling-back and narrowing of SB22-230. The bill that was passed and ultimately gave no rights to public defenders to unionize. This needs to change.

For the urban poor who are most often targeted by the justice system, public defenders are the only chance they have at getting a fair shake. Because the public defender’s office is so dramatically under-resourced and over worked, most marginalized people don’t get much of a chance. This means our justice system is tiered into classes, with many of the most vulnerable taking guilty pleas to avoid an extended period of incarceration while awaiting trial, whether or not they are actually guilty of the crime.

Public defenders in Colorado make enormous personal sacrifices to support their clients. These are people who care deeply about justice and the law, and are willing to work through punishing conditions to do what they feel is in the best interest of their communities. Our public defenders deserve the right to determine their own conditions, not just for themselves, but for their clients. We need your influence to get this passed into law.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: National Law Institute University

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