One of the most important guarantees in our national and state laws is that, if we can’t afford to hire a criminal defense attorney, we will be provided with one. This is a tradition that goes back to our nation’s founding, and to a belief that everyone has a right to their due process under the law. The problem is, however, that today there exists a significant lack of balance between the prosecutor’s office – which has access to significant resources in its endeavors to prove someone guilty – and the public defender’s office, which is often a springboard simply for new lawyers who wish to start getting work as a criminal defense attorney. That disparity is leading, more and more, to cries of injustice from those who would seek to create a fair environment for all.
Take, for example, the case in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There is a campaign right now in that state known as “Michigan Campaign for Justice,” and it’s backed by the County Bar Association in Kalamazoo. These folks object to the state of affairs as it exists today.
Right now, each county in that state can develop its own system used to assign a criminal defense attorney to a case when the defendant isn’t able to provide their own counsel. They argue that this creates natural inequity, because the resources in a given county may be much more significant than in a neighboring country, for example.
The group has helped to encourage legislation that is right now being considered by the Michigan House of Representatives in the Judiciary committee. The bill seeks to create a system for public criminal defense attorney uses. The goal, of course, is to make sure that everyone is represented properly.
This echoes a concern of some judges in the state who have noted that prosecutor’s offices often have police investigators at their disposal, as well as significant funding, while criminal defense attorney offices in the public sector just don’t have those same resources.
The legislation may face an uphill battle, as some opponents are characterizing the bill as somehow creating loopholes for those accused of crimes, although the argument doesn’t carry much weight.