|Posted:||February 22, 2019 10:18 AM|
|From:||Representative Joanna E. McClinton|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Over 50 Years After Gideon - Time for Pennsylvania to Fund Indigent Legal Defense|
|In 1963, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that free counsel for criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire an attorney is mandated upon the states by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. After nearly sixty years, Pennsylvania is the only state that does not appropriate funds to assist counties in supplying free counsel to indigent criminal defendants. Pennsylvania needs to appropriate funds to comply with the Gideon decision by creating and funding a center to support the delivery of services to these criminal defendants.
In December 2011, the Joint State Government Commission issued a report “A Constitutional Default: Services to Indigent Criminal Defendants in Pennsylvania.” The commission’s Advisory Committee on Services to Indigent Criminal Defendants concluded that Pennsylvania was not meeting the Gideon constitutional mandate. The commission’s report proposed a statewide agency to oversee indigent criminal defense services. In the spirit of that report but recognizing fiscal realities, my legislation is based on a scaled back proposal from the Pennsylvania Coalition for Justice.
This legislation would establish the Pennsylvania Center for Effective Indigent Defense Legal Representation. A board of directors, which will be representative of the criminal defense bar, will oversee the operation of the center. The center will exist as an independent agency or be affiliated with a Pennsylvania school of law. The center will perform the following duties:
My bill will allow Pennsylvania to follow in the footsteps of the other 49 states in the nation that already appropriate funds to assist counties to supply free counsel to indigent criminal defendants. I ask that you please join me in supporting this much-needed legislation.
Introduced as HB1217