Episode #32: Are the Scales of Justice Equally Weighted?

Friday, May 17, 2013

It’s been 50 years since the Supreme Court established a right to counsel in all criminal cases in the case Gideon v. Wainwright – even when the defendant can’t afford an attorney.  Today we want to consider, How well is that access working? How much time do public defenders have for the people they represent?  How many poor defendants stay out of jail, compared to those who hire their own lawyers?  Does it play out differently for whites and minorities? And how do the poor fare in civil cases, where there is no guaranteed right to counsel?  

On today's "Lines Between Us," Sheilah talks about access to lawyers in the courts.  Paul DeWolfe is a Public Defender for the State of Maryland, which defends the indigent in criminal cases.  Pamela Ortiz is the Executive Director of Maryland Access to Justice Comminssion, which is exmaining how to provide access to counsel for the poor in some civil matters.  Gabriel Chin is a professor of law at University of California-Davis, who recently wrote the paper “Race and the Disappointing Right to Counsel."

You can hear more of the conversation here--including a discussion on whether having a lawyer present can change the outcome for a defendent--and how race may play a factor.