Who is Responsible for Indigent Defense?

Erik Luna of Washington and Lee University School of Law wrote an interesting op-ed for the National Law Journal today on the appropriate balance of state and federal roles in providing for indigent defense. In the wake of some high-profile lawsuits at the state level over inadequate funding (we blogged about a suit in Michigan, a report in Idaho, and linked to a story about an ongoing suit in New York).

As the federal government steps up to take a more active role in fixing the indigent defense system (e.g. the Department of Justice’s appointment of Laurence Tribe to head up indigent legal services efforts – we linked to coverage here), Luna argues that it is important to remember that indigent defense for persons in the state or local criminal justice system is (and always has been) a state responsibility. Luna also discusses some interesting measures states are taking to reduce burdens on their criminal justice systems, and how these are all related and can be supported (but not replaced by) federal efforts.

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