Hastings Law Journal


Norman Lefstein


A significant national problem is the enduring widespread crisis in providing adequate legal representation for indigent defendants in state criminal prosecutions. Insufficient funding and lack of oversight undermines the quality of public defense delivery systems while constantly risking the conviction of innocent persons. Thus, the Constitution's promise of counsel, first recognized in 1963 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright, remains unfulfilled. This Article, which draws upon an in-depth study of English criminal legal aid, focuses on sources of funding, selection of counsel by the client, and programs to monitor the quality of representation. Comparing the current American and English systems, this Article suggests that there are important lessons the United States should borrow from England. Foremost among these, this Article argues, is for the federal government to provide financial support to assist state and local governments in fulfilling their duty to implement the right to counsel, an approach endorsed almost twenty-five years ago by the American Bar Association.

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