Public Defenders

February 27, 1963

Report Outline
Legal Aid for Poor Defendants in Court
Rights of Defendants in Criminal Cases
Public Defender System in Practice

Legal Aid for Poor Defendants in Court

Inequities in the administration of justice in criminal cases, arising out of differences in the ability of defendants to pay lawyer fees and other costs, appear headed for corrective action in the early future. The Kennedy administration has served notice that it intends to press for enactment of legislation to improve the present court practice of assigning counsel to indigent defendants charged with federal offenses.

A major innovation would be creation of the office of public defender in the various federal courts which would supply experienced lawyers to undertake the defense of accused persons not able to engage counsel at their own expense. At present, a federal judge appoints any lawyer he wishes—or can get—to defend an indigent without compensation. This assigned-counsel procedure prevails also in most state and local courts.

Another thrust against what has been called a double standard of justice—one kind for the rich and another for the poor—is expected in a forthcoming Supreme Court action. In the case in question the Court has been asked to determine whether or to what extent a state may have power to limit an indigent's right to counsel in a criminal case.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Oct. 07, 2011  Legal-Aid Crisis
Apr. 18, 2008  Public Defenders
Nov. 09, 2007  Prosecutors and the Law
May 22, 1992  Too Many Lawsuits?
Jul. 20, 1984  Lawyers in America
Aug. 02, 1972  Legal Profession in Transition
Feb. 27, 1963  Public Defenders
Criminal Law Procedure and Due Process
Legal Professions and Resources