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NACDL News: Court Finds Systemic Violation of Indigent Defendants’ Right to Counsel
By Ivan J. Dominguez
NACDL News columns.
On Dec. 5, 2013, in the case of Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon, et al., one of a number of cases challenging systemic deficiencies in the delivery of indigent defense services across the nation, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington found systemic violations of defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel by the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington, Washington, and ordered injunctive relief. On Aug. 14, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in this case. While not taking a position on the merits of plaintiffs’ claims in this particular case, the Department of Justice made very clear that “the United States has an interest in ensuring that all jurisdictions — federal, state, and local — are fulfilling their obligation under the Constitution to provide effective assistance of counsel to individuals facing criminal charges who cannot afford an attorney, as required by Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963).”
In its deci
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