Feature Friday: Public Defender Corps

Today, I want to feature an excellent program that I just heard of yesterday – The Public Defender Corps! It’s a program created in partnership between the Southern Public Defender Training Center (SPDTC) and Equal Justice Works. The program recruits recent law school graduates, providing them with an intensive three-year training and mentorship program that is designed to help them become better leaders in the field. From their website:

Criminal justice systems throughout our country fail to afford poor people accused of crimes the representation to which they are entitled. In many places, years of neglect have led professionals operating in these systems to accept this lesser standard of justice for those with the least means. All of society bears the exorbitant cost of sub-par legal representation including expensive and often wrongful incarceration, a values system that fails to honor standards of due process and equal treatment, and the community divisiveness and diminished sense of well-being that results from ignoring the needs and rights of our least fortunate citizens.

To address this problem, the Southern Public Defender Training Center (SPDTC) has partnered with Equal Justice Works (EJW) to develop a national public defender fellowship program called Public Defender Corps (PDC). PDC is based on the philosophy that through its advocacy, a committed, conscientious, and competent community of public defenders can drive systemic reform by raising the system’s expectations of the quality of representation poor people deserve.

PDC will partner with public defender offices that confront challenges to their ability to provide every client the representation and equal treatment our Constitution guarantees. Through a rigorous nationwide recruitment effort, we will identify recent law graduates qualified to help carry out this mission and, in collaboration with our partner offices, place these lawyers in host sites. Fellows will then participate in an intensive, three-year training and mentorship program designed to both make them better public defenders and support their ability to become strong leaders in the field of indigent defense.

Sounds like an excellent opportunity, and I highly support their mission. We’ve all heard the horror stories of public defenders simply not doing their job (sleeping in court, in one of the worst cases), or doing it poorly (failing to uncover critical evidence, not doing sufficient investigation – although it is admittedly difficult to do a bang up job when you are juggling more than 50 cases at a time). This training program promises to make defenders far more effective. Just like the movement towards better teaching and the emphasis on good teaching to improve educational attainment, the movement towards rigor and training in the criminal defense sphere is an excellent paradigm shift. International Bridges to Justice has been, since the beginning of the decade, pioneering a similar mentality of training for legal aid lawyers in the developing world. A different set of challenges – but the same tools.

Friday Links:

I’ve been encountering a whole lot of excellent articles in the past few days, so instead of blogging about each one, let me just pass on the links:

Enjoy, and I hope everyone has a great Friday!

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One Response to Feature Friday: Public Defender Corps

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