Indifference to the system


The failure of Utah and Pennsylvania to provide state funding for criminal defendants who require the services of public defenders raises serious questions (“Justice denied,” HCN, 5/16/16). 

The U.S. Constitution requires due process but does not require the kind of defense that the wealthy are able to engage, compared to the inadequacies of legal representation provided by public defenders. Both states are guilty of depraved indifference to the plight of people such as Sue M. and other defendants similarly situated. And this raises another question about the inadequacy of a defense. There are many cases where appeals have been mounted on the basis of this issue. Judges and prosecutors are public employees and licensed attorneys trained to practice law and with the requisite level of knowledge and experience to recognize what constitutes an ineffective defense as it plays out right before their eyes. And if they fail to recognize and acknowledge this reality, are they not also guilty of depraved indifference to the process of a fair trial? 

Moreover, why are allegations of ineffective legal counsel not brought to the attention of licensing boards, seeking sanctions or revocations of professional licenses?  We may not expect much self-policing to occur in the context of practitioners who fail to deliver competent and effective legal services on behalf of the likes of Sue M. Cronyism will continue to nurture depraved indifference for the law and our justice systems that judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys have sworn to be faithful to. 

Hugh S. Jameson
El Paso, Texas

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