Judicial Committee Releases Important Report on Sixth Amendment Rights in Criminal Cases
Although a very important report on how the federal Criminal Justice Act works was completed in 2017, it was not made public until October of this year, and did not receive media attention due to the news surrounding Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination. The report identifies a number of criminal justice issues, and proposes that there is a pressing need to reorganize federal criminal defense.
Specifically, the Judicial Conference committee behind the report found, in part, that judges have too much of a role in overseeing the appointment of defense attorneys for criminal defendants who cannot afford their own attorneys (under the Sixth Amendment). Instead, the committee purports that an independent agency should serve as this role, rather than the judges who are also presiding over the criminal cases, for obvious, conflict of interest reasons.
Perhaps more importantly, the report notes serious deficiencies in the quality of legal representation for criminal defendants who are appointed defense attorneys versus those who can afford to hire their own. From finding that appointed attorneys in the public system are ill-equipped, insufficiently-compensated, without the resources, knowledge, expert witnesses, training, and guidance that many other defense attorneys have. The result is, as the report noted, that the “quality of defense appears to be uneven across the country and from case to case within districts.”
Criminal Defense Attorneys Affect Criminal Defendants Directly
There is no question that genuine independence is crucial to provide a high-quality defense in all cases. Too many attorneys who are appointed instead of hired are hamstrung by a lack of financial resources, training, and guidance, and defendants in federal courts suffer as a result, where they are more likely to face wrongful conviction and harsher punishments, including execution.
Ultimately, it will take action by Congress to realize the original and full intent of the 1964 Criminal Justice Act; still, there is room to make that transition to independence now. Indeed, anyone who is accused of a crime is entitled to effective, wholehearted assistance of counsel, where skill, dedication, and independent are essential to all of our due process rights. As the report concludes, despite the best efforts of all parties involved in delivering effective representation under the Sixth Amendment, the current structure results in serious disparities in the quality of representation; disparities that have serious consequences for criminal defendants.
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Your Sixth Amendment rights to effective counsel are incredibly important. Who you consult with can literally make the difference between life and death. If you have been arrested for a crime, the experienced, focused criminal defense attorneys of the Baez Law Firm provide the very best in criminal defense services here in Florida. Contact us today to discuss your case.