News Release ~ 03/31/1999

Funding Justice for All

Champion Magazine Explores ‘Gideon at 36 Years’

Washington, DC (March 31, 1999) -- “Any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.” Since the Supreme Court of the United States wrote those words 36 years ago in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), the courts and the bar have struggled to fulfill the promise of justice for all. But as Congress found a generation ago when it held hearings on the Criminal Justice Act, unpaid counsel were not always as diligent or prepared as retained counsel. As the Court later ruled, simply appointing a warm body to represent an indigent defendant does not fulfill Gideon’s mandate; the right to counsel is the right to effective assistance of counsel.

Recognizing that more than 36 years after the Gideon decision the playing field is still steeply sloped in favor of the prosecution, The Champion, the monthly magazine of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), devotes its April issue to a national crisis of concern to judges, legislators, prosecutors and defense lawyers alike: the problem of delivery of legal services to the poor. Selected articles from the April issue are available for reading or downloading, among them:

  • “Six Building Blocks for Indigent Defense” by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. On February 25, 1999, Ms. Reno addressed the first National Symposium on Indigent Defense at the Mayflower Hotel, in Washington, D.C. Her remarks at that historic meeting of representatives from every part and every level of America’s criminal justice system appear in print for the first time.
  • “Unanimous Resolution” by Terence F. MacCarthy, Executive Director of the Federal Defender Program, in Chicago. Mr. MacCarthy presents the American Bar Association’s Report and Resolution, calling on Congress to fully fund federal defender services through the Criminal Justice Act, to the defense lawyers and prosecutors of the ABA’s Criminal Justice Section, which approved the motion without a single negative vote.

Click here for the April 1999 NACDL Indigent Defense Resolutions

“We live in a time of unparalleled economic growth and prosperity, yet -- as is too often the case -- the poor and disenfranchised are not being served,” says NACDL President Larry Pozner, of Denver. The authors of the articles in April’s issue of The Champion present their cases for full funding of the federal Criminal Justice Act in every federal district. While there are many dedicated lawyers across the country who will accept an occasional federal criminal appointment, compensation for these attorneys falls below even the cost of their office overhead. More than 90 percent of criminal defendants in federal courts cannot afford to hire a lawyer. The Chief Justice of the United States, the Attorney General, and bar organizations from the ABA to the NACDL to the National Association of Former United States Attorneys and the Federal Judges Association are all urging Congress to fully fund the Criminal Justice Act in order to fulfill the mandate of Gideon.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers 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 approximately 10,000 direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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