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NACDL News: NACDL Report Reveals How States Decide Who Is ‘Too Poor’ to Hire a Lawyer

By Ivan J. Dominguez and Isaac Kramer

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Marking the 51st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright on March 18, NACDL released a report revealing various ways states restrict access to counsel. In particular, states do so by applying unrealistic eligibility guidelines and imposing myriad fees when people are deemed eligible for assigned counsel. Prepared by NACDL’s Indigent Defense Counsel John Gross, Redefining Indigence: Financial Eligibility Guidelines for Assigned Counsel documents how the widely held belief that “if you cannot afford an attorney one will be provided to you free of charge” is simply not true. This report serves as a stark reminder that much work remains to secure the meaningful protection of Americans’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

On the day of the report’s release, NACDL President Jerry J. Cox commented, “The denial of counsel to those too poor to hire a lawyer based on arbitrary income eligibility guidelines undermines the central tenet of our crimina

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  • Media inquiries: Contact NACDL's Director of Public Affairs & Communications Ivan J. Dominguez at 202-465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org
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