Just how ironclad is our right to an attorney?
Does having a right to an attorney also mean that you are also entitled to the best defense possible?
Does having a right to a public defender also guarantee anything else?
New York Public Defenders are Overworked and Underpaid
I can attest that the large majority of public defenders in this country are under an immense strain. They have hundreds of case files and have little if any support staff. Some are paid on a salary and some are paid by the case hour. Regardless of compensation their ability to render the best counsel is often compromised under this load. The criminal justice system itself does not make any of this burden any more tenable. With increasingly large dockets of case files and backed up hearings many people get lost in the system.
I am a private attorney now but in my past I did perform public defense work. I am forever grateful for the experience. That said, managing and defending large amounts of people with little to no resources is anything but pleasant. At times you are naturally overwhelmed and frustrated. Judges and prosecutors face similar issues of too many files with not enough time to manage them properly.
Gideon v. Wainwright Never Imagined a Digital Age
More than 54 years ago the Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a right to effective legal counsel.
Guarantee of a Right to Counsel and a Speedy Trial
As Clint Eastwood quipped, You want a guarantee, BUY A TOASTER! There ain't no guarantees for nothing. As to speedy trial, I can only laugh. Depending upon where you are in the state things take time, lots of time. No-one is in much of rush especially those people paid by the hour.
Guarantee of a Right to Effective Legal Counsel
What does that really mean? Effective? Does that mean timely? Does that mean communicative? Does that mean experienced? Does that mean prepared?
We would like to think that the word EFFECTIVE means all of that and more. But the truth is that sometimes it is impossible to be effective, to be prepared, to be communicative with more cases than hours.
I think the framers never expected the pace of life as we live it. With so much information at our command we have little time or energy or resources to utilize it for justice. It truly is the most resourceful that get the key advantages. This is especially true in our courts of law.
DWI Cases are Some of the Cases that Require Experts and Time
More time for less cases. More resources and experts equals greater focus and concentration. It has always been this way and if the trend continues people should in fact adjust their expectations. As we prepare now for a trial in September with a doctor as our expert I ponder what effective really means.
After all everyone is entitled by the CONSTITUTION to counsel but the level of that representation is always going to be in relation to their resources.