The court system provides a way for those who qualify financially to get an attorney appointed to their case. These court appointed attorneys, or public defenders, work to make sure those in the criminal justice system are able to get a fair trial. There are both advantages and disadvantages to using a court appointed attorney.
In order to qualify for a court appointed attorney, one must first show they can’t afford to hire a private attorney. Generally, a person’s income and assets are taken into account in order to determine whether they qualify for a public defender. Those who do qualify must then meet with the public defender and discuss their case to ensure the attorney is able to take on the responsibility.
There are a few disadvantages to using a court appointed attorney. One is the amount of time they can commit to a case. Public defenders often have hundreds of cases at any given time, making it difficult for them to give the attention and time to each case that is needed. Additionally, court appointed attorneys are typically new lawyers meaning they may not have the experience to handle complicated cases.
Despite these drawbacks, public defenders can provide invaluable services to those who can’t afford to hire a private attorney. One example of a court appointed attorney making a difference is the case of Clarence Earl Gideon. In 1961, Gideon was charged with breaking and entering and was denied a court appointed attorney. Gideon was determined to get the representation he was entitled to and took his case of Gideon v Wainwright to the Supreme Court where it was decided that the right to counsel was required even if a person couldn’t afford it. This landmark case changed the course of criminal justice history and ensured all individuals, regardless of their financial standing, would be able to have access to legal representation.
Qualifying for a court appointed attorney can be a complicated and bureaucratic process, but it is an important right for those in the criminal justice system. It is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of using a public defender so the individual can make the best decision for them and their case.