Washington, DC (December 5, 2013) – Yesterday, in the case of Wilbur v. City of Mount Vernon, et al., one of a number of cases challenging systemic deficiencies in the delivery of indigent defense services across the nation, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington State found systemic violations of defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel by the Cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington, Washington, and ordered injunctive relief. A copy of the decision is available here. On August 14, 2013, the United States Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest in this case. While not taking a position on the merits of plaintiffs’ claims in this particular case, the Department of Justice made very clear that “The United States has an interest in ensuring that all jurisdictions – federal, state, and local – are fulfilling their obligation under the Constitution to provide effective assistance of counsel to individuals facing criminal charges who cannot afford an attorney, as required by Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963).”
In its decision yesterday, the court found that “indigent criminal defendants in Mount Vernon and Burlington are systematically deprived of the assistance of counsel at critical stages of the prosecution and that municipal policymakers have made deliberate choices regarding the funding, contracting, and monitoring of the public defense system that directly and predictably caused that deprivation.” After setting forth detailed injunctive relief aimed at addressing the significant problems with the indigent defense delivery systems in these jurisdictions, the court noted that this is the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright, the seminal case cited by the Department of Justice in its Statement of Interest to this court, and concluded:
“It has been fifty years since the United States Supreme Court first recognized that the accused has a right to the assistance of counsel for his defense in all criminal prosecutions and that the state courts must appoint counsel for indigent defendants who cannot afford to retain their own lawyer. The notes of freedom and liberty that emerged from Gideon’s trumpet a half a century ago cannot survive if that trumpet is muted and dented by harsh fiscal measures that reduce the promise to a hollow shell of a hallowed right.”
NACDL Executive Director Norman L. Reimer said: “Not only was this case historic for the action taken by the Department of Justice in filing its important Statement of Interest last August, but also in its holding it is significant as it puts all jurisdictions – local, state and federal -- across the nation on notice that the adequate funding and resourcing of the defense function is not an elective budget line item. It is a core constitutional mandate that can, and must, be enforced by the courts.”
Recent NACDL research reports in this area include:
- Minor Crimes, Massive Waste: The Terrible Toll of America’s Broken Misdemeanor Courts
- Three Minute Justice: Haste and Waste in Florida’s Misdemeanor Courts
- National Indigent Defense Reform: The Solution is Multifaceted (a joint report with the ABA)
- Part I – Rationing Justice: The Underfunding of Assigned Counsel Systems
These and other NACDL reports are available online at www.nacdl.org/reports.
Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
Ivan Dominguez, Director of Public Affairs and Communications (202) 465-7662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.