Poor Court Funding for Defense Lawyers

The Supreme Court requires state and federal governments to provide services to those they accuse of crimes, and governments pay private lawyers to fulfill those obligations. But hiring private lawyers costs money and courts do not set budgets.

It is a well-known problem that legislatures often do not provide funding for criminal defense services that are deemed adequate.  For example, wrongful convictions are among the most discussed issues of the criminal justice.  And documented wrongful convictions are only a small portion of the total number.  These outcomes are in direct correlation with poor defense lawyering.  A further problem is that with guilty offenders, who can hire better lawyers and win acquittals or reduce punishments through entitlements and negotiation for non-criminal dispositions.

The uneven systemic effectiveness of defense counsel needs to be repaired by the court.  Poor defense is widely underfunded and the political structures in which it is entangled in suggest little hope for improvement.  Courts create formal entitlements, but legislative funding defines the real content of rights.  For example, rights such as effective defense counsel requires money in order to take into effect, but legislative funding undermines the defense attorneys, who are the primary enforces of such rights, and therefore decreases the exercise of such rights.  Courts have been unwilling to govern funding decision to reinforce legal guarantees.