News Release

Statement of Judy Clarke President, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers On Settlement of Oklahoma Indigent Defense Funding Crisis

Washington, DC (January 22, 1997) -- The nation's criminal justice lawyers want to commend today's last minute agreement ensuring supplemental funding to keep the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System from descending into chaos. Facing imminent insolvency due to increased caseloads and last year's arbitrary funding cuts, Governor Keating and the legislative leadership became convinced that letting the system crash and burn would only lead to case dismissals, prisoner releases and a cascade of lawsuits. This eliminates any need to challenge the state's failure to abide by the U.S. Constitution's requirement -- recognized for over a third of a century -- that counsel be provided to Americans who cannot afford lawyers when the state seeks to deprive them of their lives or liberty. NACDL particularly commends Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Charles Chapel and Vice Presiding Judge Charles Johnson for their efforts, and patience, in facilitating the negotiations.

Judy Clarke is Executive Director of Federal Defenders of Eastern Washington and Idaho, the federal public defenders for the Northwest United States.

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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 many thousands of 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.