Natl. Criminal Defense Bar Warns Cook County Board Public Defender Budget Cuts Would Break Down System
Washington, DC (January 31) – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers sent a representative to the Cook County Board of Commissioners budget hearing Tuesday night to warn that cutting the public defender budget could have serious consequences not just for poor defendants but for the court system itself.
NACDL First Vice President John Wesley Hall, Jr., of Little Rock, Ark., reminded the commissioners that lawyers are bound by the state professional responsibility code, and that any lawyer who feels that accepting additional appointments must ethically refuse new cases.
Hall testified that NACDL has been involved in public defender caseload issues for two decades, and that the Cook County public defenders were already 60 percent over the national standards for case load.
“Rank and file lawyers are independent entities for ethics purposes, and they could and should choose to say ‘No more cases’ and refuse new appointments if they felt that it was compromising their ability to represent their clients,” Hall explained. “If that happens, the system will back up, and that will delay cases.”
“Justice delayed is justice is denied. Do not add to delay; do not deny justice,” he said.
An internationally-recognized expert in legal ethics, Hall waited three hours to advise the Board at the open meeting. He is the author of Professional Responsibility in Criminal Defense Practice (3d ed., 2005) and of numerous law review articles on the duties of criminal defense lawyers. He is a frequent lecturer on legal ethics and related matters for the criminal defense bar, and was recently elected one of the two permanent members of the Disciplinary Appeals Board of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
NACDL is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL’s 13,000-plus direct members in 28 countries — and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations with another 35,000 members — include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness within the criminal justice system.
To read Hall''s testimony, click here.