The Champion

January/February 2003 , Page 49 

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Citizen Involvement in Virginia

By NACDL Staff

Those involved with the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) agree that it has been a critical force in building an efficient and high-quality public defender system in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. State Delegate Mitch Van Yahres spent years advocating the creation of a public defender office in his area. He says, “This is one of the occasions where the system worked well. A newspaper wrote a story about the problem, and the public picked up on the issue. We worked a bill through the legislative process, overcame many obstacles, and eventually had a public defender office.” Because of the community’s involvement in the creation of the Public Defender Office, he notes, “someone is paying attention to the program and its results. The Citizens Advisory Committee gives the office that oversight. You have a grassroots-level public group that’s right in the middle of the action.”

Grace Tinsley, a long-time activist in Charlottesville, was part of a small g

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