Open Letter: Public Defenders are Justice System First Responders
Tens of thousands of public defenders and other public defense professionals daily deliver the promise of rights enumerated in the Constitution, a function that has grown all the more critical in these dark times. As courts have closed their doors, access to justice for low-income people facing criminal charges has been severely curtailed. Jurisdictions across the country have limited the ability to challenge pre-trial detention, litigate evidentiary issues, or conduct trials. Rather than scale back our own efforts, public defenders have stepped up, put ourselves at risk in crowded courtrooms, unsafe jails, and public spaces to ensure that low-income people’s rights are not cast aside and their legal needs ignored.