Category Archives: Oklahoma

OK: Public defenders face financial challenges

From The Tulsa World:

The timing of my appointment happened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Gideon v. Wainwright, which empathically established the constitutional requirement to appoint counsel in criminal cases for individuals unable to afford to hire their own lawyers.

My first and foremost observation is the shocking and disappointing lack of funding for this mandatory and moral obligation. The budgetary outlay, in all aspects, from physical space issues, technology, staffing, to compensation, is so wholly and patently inadequate. We are on pace, in the foreseeable future, to be confronted with a constitutional crisis. Without belaboring the point with overwhelming and compelling statistics, the combination of inexperienced lawyers caused by low-pay-induced turnover, and a steady stream of a crushing volume of cases, especially costly and time-consuming murder cases, will inevitably result in the inability of the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office to simply take on any more appointments.

That result would be unimaginable. A paralyzed criminal justice system – the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office is appointed to nearly 80 percent of all felonies filed – would be, for all involved, the prosecutors, judges, victims, defendants and society at large, simply untenable.

Read the entire piece here.