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house Bill H.R. 2063

Should the Government Put More Resources Behind Public Defenders?

Argument in favor

As a country, we have too often failed to provide what the Sixth Amendment promises: speedy trials and good lawyers. This bill is a serious effort to make good on those obligations.

Scott's Opinion
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08/12/2015
I think it's pretty obvious by now that the system is systemically stacked against criminal defendants, with the FBI even admitting that it's labs intentionally misrepresented DNA evidence to help convict defendants. With this kind of system, public defenders need all the help they can get.
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Alex's Opinion
···
10/13/2015
Look how many innocent people are forced into jail these days. There are so many people being proven innocent after decades of being labeled guilty because of fraudulent trials. Stopping these crooked prosecutors in the initial trial will save millions.
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Michael's Opinion
···
09/30/2015
I don't understand why this is a question. As long as the government is going to overload the court system with non-violent offenders and casual pot smokers, we will need to foot the bill for the defense. Many PD's carry huge caseloads and barely get to spend much time on any one case, or come to a valid defense. Most cases are pleaded out for this reason, leaving innocent people with criminal records for the rest of their lives. Either legislate to reduce unnecessary arrests, or pay the price for PDs.
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Argument opposed

Getting a trial and a lawyer on time is a challenge. But the problem here is not a lack of resources, it’s that these resources are poorly utilized. This would just further entangle the web of bureaucracy.

John's Opinion
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07/11/2015
We are 18 TRILLION in debt. We cannot afford new programs. We should be cutting programs. Stop spending!!! We should reduce taxes and reduce spending $2 for every tax dollar cut!
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Marvin's Opinion
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06/24/2015
If it creates a private, nonprofit, then why is Congress having anything to do with it. Let a non-profit handle it.
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Curmudgeon's Opinion
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08/01/2015
This is the second exposure of this measure. The first response I made is that all it would really do is add to the taxpayer burden of paying the appointed counsel the cost of his/her transit out of area. If no competent counsel is locally available, that is really not answerable by this bill.
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What is House Bill H.R. 2063?

This bill seeks to strengthen use of the Sixth Amendment by creating a new non-profit organization to ensure that there are enough public defenders to carry it out.


Everybody knows Amendments One (free speech!) and Two (guns!) but, much like
Led Zeppelin IV, the deeper cuts of the Bill of Rights are as critical to its greatness as the singles. The Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to an attorney and right to a speedy trial. As of late, the U.S. has had some trouble delivering on that—but more on that below. The solution? Starting a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that would fund legal counsel for defendants at all level of government — federal, state, and local. It would also conduct research on the public defense system and function as an informational resource. It would be called the National Center for the Right to Counsel.

The non-profit would be helmed by a nine member board of directors, chosen by the President. A majority of these would have to be from the highest board in their state, while one would have to be a former indigent defendant — a person that couldn’t afford an attorney after being charged with a crime. The board would be mirrored by a nine member state advisory councils, which would investigate local complaints and report back to the national board.

Finally, the bill requires the center to provide services in languages that aren’t English where large numbers of people speak them.

Impact

People that need public defenders, public defenders, local and State courts, the President.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 2063

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: This bill has twenty-two cosponsors, all of them Democrats. A previous version of this bill was introduced Sponsoring Rep. Ted Deutch introduced a version of this bill to the House in 2013. It pinged around various subcommittees but was never voted upon.


Of Note: How bad is the public defender crisis? Pick a state. Search that state and “public defender shortage.” Chances are good that something will come up. The ACLU of Washington State sued two cities in 2013 when it found out that they had issued public defense contracts for over 1,000 people to two lawyers who both maintained private practices. Later that year in Nashville, the public defender a man accused of murder, upon finding out that the prosecution was seeking the death penalty, asked the judge to find him a private attorney. Their office was too swamped to give fair representation to a man who could be put to death. In 2010, budget constraints in Minnesota meant that public defenders were swapped in and out of cases like hockey lines, with virtually no time to prepare before hitting the ice.

Not only was that bad for indigent defendants, it was bad for the public defenders themselves—people in their 30s were going to the hospital with blood pressure problems. The National Center for the Right to Counsel would be able to take note of these issues and divert resources toward them. But starting it might not be the only solution. Comal County, Texas, has initiated a program where, instead of having public defenders take cases as their names come up, individuals in need of a public defender get to pick and the state pays that attorney what it would otherwise. The idea is that it incentivizes good, hard work on the part, rather than simply giving them a bunch of people to represent with the knowledge that they’ll get paid and offered more clients tomorrow.


Media:

Summary by James Helmsworth
(Photo Credit: Flickr user Village Square)

AKA

National Center for the Right to Counsel Act

Official Title

To establish the National Center for the Right to Counsel.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties
      Committee on the Judiciary
      Committee on Ways and Means
      Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
    IntroducedApril 28th, 2015
    I think it's pretty obvious by now that the system is systemically stacked against criminal defendants, with the FBI even admitting that it's labs intentionally misrepresented DNA evidence to help convict defendants. With this kind of system, public defenders need all the help they can get.
    Like (20)
    Follow
    Share
    We are 18 TRILLION in debt. We cannot afford new programs. We should be cutting programs. Stop spending!!! We should reduce taxes and reduce spending $2 for every tax dollar cut!
    Like (11)
    Follow
    Share
    Look how many innocent people are forced into jail these days. There are so many people being proven innocent after decades of being labeled guilty because of fraudulent trials. Stopping these crooked prosecutors in the initial trial will save millions.
    Like (10)
    Follow
    Share
    I don't understand why this is a question. As long as the government is going to overload the court system with non-violent offenders and casual pot smokers, we will need to foot the bill for the defense. Many PD's carry huge caseloads and barely get to spend much time on any one case, or come to a valid defense. Most cases are pleaded out for this reason, leaving innocent people with criminal records for the rest of their lives. Either legislate to reduce unnecessary arrests, or pay the price for PDs.
    Like (10)
    Follow
    Share
    If it creates a private, nonprofit, then why is Congress having anything to do with it. Let a non-profit handle it.
    Like (7)
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    Public Defense is hampered by the tiny stipends for it and the onus placed on public defense rotations by the industry. Those who most need lawyers get only a mockery of a defense.
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    Public defenders are the unsung heroes of our justice system. They take the toughest criminal cases and represent the most vulnerable members of society. After interning at a PD office, I realized how hard these cases can be on the attorneys as well. This bill would be a step towards recognizing and addressing the obstacles that indigent defense face.
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    We don't have "equal protection under the law". We have one set of protection for the wealthy, another for the rest of us. A person accused of a crime should have adequate representation without having to sell his house and cash in his retirement account to get it.
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    Yes many people arrested do not get the legal help they deserve because their are a shortage of legal defense lawyers.
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    This is the second exposure of this measure. The first response I made is that all it would really do is add to the taxpayer burden of paying the appointed counsel the cost of his/her transit out of area. If no competent counsel is locally available, that is really not answerable by this bill.
    Like (4)
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    I happen to know about a case in Columbia, SC that was a case of a mentally disabled veteran who was mentally disabled because he was brain damaged on active duty in the military. The veteran was falsely accused, arrested, and told to plead guilty to a lesser charge because their public defender said they wouldn't be able to get the innocent veteran declared not guilty in court.
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    It's a constitutional right, law was wrote at the time of our founding fathers and the country is still attempting to construct a agreed plan to maintain the constitution which is the responsibility of the federal government first when these rights are constrained un lawfully at any layer of legal organization under these terms for the desired result of a civil society.
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    A fair trial is a right of every American. How can you have a fair trial without competent representation?
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    The right to a defendant, and the right to a speedy trial are Constitutional Rights of these here United States of America. Currently, there is a massive problem with appointed public defendants - in many places they are rushed so quickly that they can only spare a few minutes per each case, and can only gather enough information to get a good plea deal for the defendant. Word is, that they mostly encourage defendants to take the plea deal. Many opinions against H.R. 2063 argue that we need to balance the budget before we create new programs. I can understand the thought process, but I don't think it applies to this type of project as much as it does to welfare or other types of social safety net programs. Instead, spending for this strengthens a constitutional right. But on top of that, I also think that this bill has the potential to decrease government spending. Large amounts of funds are sent to maintain prisons - many for non-violent crimes, much also likely spent for innocents that took such plea deals. In summary: I think H.R. 2063 is good for the country. It's good for our Constitutional Rights, and it's good for the Budget.
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    Yes maybe I wouldn't went to prison if the public defender had more help for a poor black man like me but that's all behind me stop locking up the poor
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    I see alot of people suffer as a result of not having a good attorney. The Public Defenders in my city have a much higher caseload than they ought to have. This should be a priority.
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    Public defenders are underpaid and often tell clients to plead guilty to get the case done quickly and move on to the next one, even if they know that their client is innocent. This is not the intention of our 6th amendment nor our criminal justice system as a whole; provide public defenders with the benefits they need as defenders of our constitutional rights.
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    The government needs to start spending tax dollars on things that matter, and very few are more important than our justice system.
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    YES THEY ARE OVER WORKED AND UNDER PAID.
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    No to Another committee . And this bill doesn't have even an estimated cost. So the sky is the limit?
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