#18: Scandal and the Golden Rule in Criminal Defense for the Poor


The tattered system for supplying criminal defense services to the poor is a shambles. More than 50 years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared that persons charged with crimes must be provided with a defense lawyer if they are too poor to afford one, that promise has been broken. In countless places around the U.S., governments simply do not provide the resources for poor people charged with crimes to have a real defense. The result: defense lawyers with impossible caseloads struggling to meet the constitutional minimum standards for defense. It’s a national scandal, and yet year after year, state and local governments do too little – or nothing – to fix it.

Jonathan Rapping has an answer. Rapping, a lawyer, law professor and 2014 McArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellow, is the founder and president of Gideon’s Promise, a national organization that trains public defense lawyers from throughout the country.

Rapping and his group were also profiled in Essence Magazine. Find more here.

“All across the country public defenders have been stymied in their attempts to stand up and say ‘We don’t have enough money. We can predict with certainty our clients will fall through the cracks.’ And the courts have been saying, ‘Well let’s wait until they fall through the cracks. You can then bring that to our attention one case at a time.’”