Highlights from the 2015 Right to Counsel National Consortium Inaugural Meeting

Highlights from the 2015 Right to Counsel National Consortium Inaugural Meeting

NARRATOR: The Sixth Amendment to
the United States Constitution provides that in all
criminal prosecutions, the accused shall
enjoy the right to have the
assistance of counsel. The Sixth Amendment safeguards
the dignity of the individual when confronted with
the power of the State. No one should stand alone
when accused of a crime. An effective legal advocate
protects the innocent and ensures that even for
those who have broken the law, a low point in a person’s
life will not necessarily define the rest of that life. DENISE O’DONNELL: What an
extraordinary opportunity to seize this moment of an
unprecedented bipartisan support for criminal
justice reform. And we have outstanding
leadership and momentum among the many organizations
you in this room represent, and here in
the Department of Justice, to make the promise
of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision and Gideon
v Wainwright attainable. And it starts with all of you. TOM BOYD: So this is what
we’re looking at in Michigan is trying to develop a system
of State-mandated standards to allow each local system to
rise to a level of competency. KIM BALL: It’s ensuring
that no person faces the loss of liberty without
the aid of a lawyer who has the time, resources, and
ability to present a defense. ANDREW STANNER: Too many public
defenders, crushing case loads, and scarce resources make
it impossible to adequately represent clients who need
and deserve assistance in legal matters. ROBERT LASNIK: You need an
injunction from a Federal judge to inspire a governmental
agency in the Executive or Legislative branch to step
up and do what needs to be done. JAMES HARDESTY: You
know, to me, a key agenda item that I would think this
group should be talking about is whether the responsibility
for funding indigent defense rests with the state,
or rest with counties. We found in our state that
almost 90% of indigent defense was funded by counties who
are underfunded and lacked the capacity and the
capability to handle this. If you do research you will
find that the state has that responsibility
first and foremost, and it continues to amaze me
that there are no cases filed that raised that question. KIM BALL: But we know
that the solutions are going to be different. And so unlike for some
of the other initiatives, where we have pretrial and
we have risk assessment and we kind of
know our solution, this one is going to take us
a little more work to come up with the solution,
and the solutions are going to be different. But that’s what you all
are going to help us do. And as every jurisdiction
looks at their problem and we figure a
solution, we will help you implement that solution. JAMES HARDESTY:
Each county should remain free to choose its
indigent defense delivery model. We think that’s critical because
every county is different. This is not a cookie
cutter operation, and so it needs to
respect the local decision making that’s necessary. ANDREW STANNER: Somewhere
between 70 and 100 million Americans have a criminal
record of some kind, which means between a quarter
and a third of us. And if there’s that 25% or 30%
chance that an American citizen is going to come into contact
with the criminal courts, then providing for a skilled,
well-resourced, well-trained, well-respected, public defender
cannot be an afterthought. VANITA GUPTA: We have a lot
of work to do at ensuring that even as we talk about
sentencing reform, as we talk about fines and
fees, as we talk about bail, that we don’t lose sight
of the very important place that right to counsel
actually occupies in the broader systemic reform. NORMAN REIMER: How many of
you in this room are lawyers? Now if you are a
lawyer who has nothing to do with criminal
justice, raise your hand. Therein lies one of the
great secrets to reform. You have got to be
willing to reach out to the rest of the profession. RODNEY ELLIS: I
think transparency helps a heck of a
lot because most of us in the elective
office don’t really know. I think instead of
the judge and the APA having principles about the
council being independent, it ought to be a rule
instead of a principle. HASSAN ADEN: We want to be
part of this conversation and we want to add to
the public awareness and, in many situations,
the reform that’s ongoing. MICHAEL A. PITTS: Lady
Justice is blind for a reason. She’s not supposed to
see people of color– brown, red, yellow,
black, white– she’s not supposed
to see anything. She’s supposed to
balance the scale. GERALD MALLOY: We
should not have defense of those that have
been charged and deprived of liberty depending on
where their zip code is. RAJ JAYADEV:
Families whose loved ones are facing charges come
and meet on a weekly basis and see how they can engage and
partner with a public defender, not just on policy issues,
but on individual cases, so that we can actualize that
right to counsel to keep people free. KIM BALL: And I know
that we can all do it. And it may be judge, prosecutor,
and defense attorney one at a time, but we can do it. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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