Thursday, August 21, 2014

USCourts article: Criminal Justice Act: At 50 Years, a Landmark in the Right to Counsel

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Criminal Justice Act of 1964, which established the system for providing indigent defendants in federal courts with paid counsel. An article at sets out a brief history of the right to counsel. It begins:

Fifty years ago—August 20, 1964—the President signed into law the Criminal Justice Act (CJA), which for the first time assured professional legal counsel in federal courts by paying an hourly fee for court appointed lawyers. Six years later, Congress established a full-time federal defender service within the judicial branch.

Together, the measures created the modern federal defenders system, and helped secure a right that Americans now take for granted: meaningful legal representation even for those who can't afford it.

Many defenders and judges call the CJA a shining success. "It's been called the gold standard of public defense," said U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake, chair of the Judicial Conference's Defender Services Committee. "The Criminal Justice Act and the right to counsel have greatly strengthened the fairness and integrity of our system of justice."

The article, which also includes some videos and other links about the right to counsel, is continued here.