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Valparaiso University Law Review

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One way the states have purported to meet their constitutional obligation to provide counsel to poor people accused of crimes has been through court-appointed lawyers. However, the paltry compensation paid for these services has generally been inadequate to attract competent lawyers. In addition, judges have too often selected court appointed lawyers precisely because the lawyers are incompetent, and can be counted on to move the courts' calendars quickly by entering hasty guilty pleas in virtually all cases. In those few cases in which the accused insists on his right to trial by jury, the trials typically move rapidly because the court-appointed lawyers generally file no motions, conduct no investigations, and do little to impede the speedy disposal of the case from charge, to guilty verdict, to imprisonment.

The other means of providing lawyers to poor people has been through public defender and legal aid offices. There, the problem has been not so much the incompetence of the lawyers, but the fact that the offices typically are seriously underfunded. This has produced overloading of the individual lawyers with far more clients than any lawyer could competently represent.



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