Why Some Think Our Public Defender System Is Unconstitutional


Many criminal offenders cannot afford to retain a private defense attorney, so the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to legal representation regardless of your ability to pay for it. Enter public defenders. These government-funded offices provide defense for poor offenders, but because people accused of crimes are disproportionally poor, public defenders have caseloads that are much too large to be able to handle these cases with any degree of diligence.

The recommended maximum felony caseload for public defenders is 150, but many are handling double that. Look at the prison population and you’ll find that 60-90% of inmates are indigent, unable to afford legal representation. An overwhelming majority of criminal defendants are forced to leave their fate in the hands of overbooked and underpaid public defenders.

Justice for All

The constitution guarantees liberty and justice for all, including the Sixth Amendment right to legal representation regardless of your ability to pay for it.

Some public defenders posit that high caseloads are inherently unconstitutional, because this prevents these public defenders from doing their job, which is providing Sixth Amendment representation to individuals who cannot afford it.

The New Orleans Public Defenders Office, for example, has just nine investigators to handle approximately 18,000 criminal cases annually. That’s 2,000 felony and misdemeanor cases for every one public defender in that office. A high priority on funding these departments would be a boon to public defenders’ offices throughout the nation.

As a private criminal defense practice, Koffel Brininger Nesbitt works with individuals in all socioeconomic brackets to provide the time and attention these cases deserve. We are a niche firm that offers low retainers and payment options that you may be surprised to find are incredibly reasonable. The cost of legal representation will depend on the type of charge, the county, and your prior record, but we are always willing to work out payment terms for qualified clients.

Contact our Columbus criminal defense law firm today to discuss your case, legal fees, and any other questions you may have about our attorneys.