Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Best Defense Is Good Offense: DOJ Challenges Local Public Defense Programs

Shortly before Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation last September, he told an interviewer: “Any attorney general who is not an activist is not doing his or her job.” One of Holder’s more activist initiatives received attention last week when The New York Times highlighted how Holder’s Justice Department began the novel practice of filing arguments in state and county courts.

“[N]either career Justice Department officials nor longtime advocates can recall such a concerted effort to insert the federal government into local civil rights cases,” Matt Apuzzo wrote for the Times.
The agency has used so-called “statements of interest” to file arguments in existing court cases—sometimes cases brought by the ACLU, Equal Justice Under Law or other advocacy groups. One issue that’s garnered particular attention from Justice Department lawyers is fair access to legal defense, a right guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has filed four such statements in the past two years, a time in which bipartisan support has emerged for a renewed examination of how local and state governments are providing legal representation to the poor. The department maintains that it does not take a position on the facts of the case, but it argues larger points about civil rights issues with national implications.

More:  http://www.propublica.org/article/justice-department-challenges-local-public-defense-programs

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