CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, June 17, 2024

"Pennsylvania’s underfunding of public defenders unconstitutional, ACLU says in suit"

From Courthouse News Service, via NACDL's news update:

“The U.S. and Pennsylvania constitutions give people a right to counsel if they face jail time,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, in a news release. “That right means more than a warm body with a law degree by your side; it requires an effective professional who has the time and resources to prepare a defense. Pennsylvania’s grossly under-funded system leads to overwhelming caseloads that make effective representation practically impossible, even for the most dedicated lawyers.”

Until March of this year, Pennsylvania was one of only two U.S. states to provide zero funding for indigent defense, leaving counties to foot the entire bill of public defenders in the Keystone State.

Shapiro — who called the lack of state funding a “shameful distinction” — introduced and passed last year a state budget that includes $7.5 million for indigent defense. A state committee later announced that only about $6.75 million would directly support counties’ indigent defense services.

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