As reported by the Daily Report here, Charles Clayman has been named to the board of Gideon’s Promise, a national non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring access to justice in under-served communities across America.
“Charles has witnessed first-hand the challenges public defenders face to uphold the Constitutional rights of marginalized populations in this country and we are pleased to have him join us in expanding the critical services Gideon’s Promise public defenders provide to more cities across the country,” said Jonathan Rapping, the founder of Gideon’s Promise. “The mission to transform the criminal justice system and provide proper legal representation to all is still in its infancy; and we welcome Charles’ experience and vision to our board of directors.”
“The work of Gideon’s Promise is essential to the system of justice every lawyer has sworn to uphold and I am proud to be working with them in this capacity,” Mr. Clayman said. “The unsung heroes of our democracy are the public defenders who work tirelessly to ensure that the rights of the accused are maintained. I salute the efforts of Gideon’s Promise and look forward to contributing to their valuable work.”
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Gideon v. Wainright that state courts are required under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to provide counsel in criminal cases to represent defendants who are unable to afford their own attorneys. However, the dramatic shortage of public defenders in America has resulted in many individuals not receiving the legal counsel guaranteed them under this ruling.
According to a report from the Justice Policy Institute, “national standards recommend that public defenders handle no more than 150 felony, 400 sdemeanor, 200 juvenile, 200 mental health, or 25 appeals per year.” Based on these standards, only 21% of state-based public defender offices and 27% of county-based public defender offices have enough attorneys to manage their caseloads. Here are some striking examples of when those standards are not met include:
In Missouri, public defenders can handle up to 150 cases at a time.
In Kentucky he average public defender worked on 460 cases in 2016.
In Florida, the annual felony caseload for public defenders was 500 felonies.
In Washington State public defenders are able to work only about an hour per case.
In New Orleans, attorneys spend only an average of seven minutes per case.