In a presentation at the state capitol this morning, experts on the right to legal counsel told lawmakers and criminal justice stakeholders that Oregon is failing to comply with the U.S. Constitution because it has significantly underfunded public defense services.
In U.S. courts, defendants are guaranteed the right to an adequate defense under the Sixth Amendment, but a study authored by the nonpartisan nonprofit found several shortcomings in Oregon’s public defense system.
David Carroll, the executive director of the Sixth Amendment Center, presented the report’s findings Thursday morning. Carroll said his team heard a repeated message from the public defenders they talked to: “We are being asked to do more and more with less and less.”
High case loads, low pay rates and a complex, bureaucratic method for assigning cases led the Sixth Amendment Center to conclude that Oregon’s public defense system is not passing constitutional muster.
The report, which was first obtained Wednesday by OPB, highlights a lack of oversight over contracts that outsource public defense services to private attorneys and nonprofit public defenders offices across Oregon. ….
Oregon’s Public Defense System ‘Is Not Constitutional’ Report Finds
Source: Conrad Wilson, OPB, December 12, 2018
State public defense systems are supposed to provide effective counsel for indigent clients — a requirement of the U.S. Constitution. But a draft report obtained by OPB concludes that Oregon’s system is so bureaucratic and structurally flawed that it can’t guarantee clients are getting the defense they’re owed. …. The Legislature authorized the money for the report, which cost $193,990. Carroll’s group got to work in March, studying nine counties in depth that ranged from Harney to Multnomah. The findings are bleak. The state lacks oversight of attorneys with whom it contracts to provide public defense services. And the way it pays attorneys encourages them to deal with cases as quickly as possible…..