National Issues

At the 6AC, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all model that all jurisdictions must use to deliver the effective right to counsel required by the Sixth Amendment. That is, each jurisdiction must take into account its unique court structures and cultures, geographic expanse and population centers, and criminal procedures, laws, and rules, to create a system that works best for the citizenry of each state. In designing its indigent defense system, what every state must do – the one thing that is not optional – is to comply with the requirements of current Sixth Amendment case law and prevailing national standards.

At the same time, policymakers and criminal justice stakeholders should not have to reinvent the wheel to solve every issue, instead being able to learn from what has succeeded and what has failed elsewhere. Likewise, academicians, journalists, advocacy groups, and the public need objective information about specific topics and how they are addressed in all jurisdictions throughout the nation.

This is the place to find that information. If you do not find the answer to whatever question you might have, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. We’re happy to help.


Actual Denial of Counsel in Misdemeanor Courts
May 2015
Publication Number: 2015.004
[ download publication ]

cover_actualdenialofcounsel_2015On May 13, 2015, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee convened a first-ever hearing on the failure of state, county, and local courts to appoint lawyers to the indigent accused, as is their Constitutional duty. In truth, many misdemeanor courts across the country simply fail to provide any lawyers at all, despite the constitutional imperative to do so. A poor person charged with crime who tries to invoke his constitutional right to counsel in a misdemeanor case often faces hurdles beginning the moment he encounters a court officer. To bolster the public record of this widespread problem, the 6AC produced and submitted as testimony to the Committee its issue paper: Actual Denial of Counsel in Misdemeanor Courts. In it we explain how our misdemeanor courts are filled with uncounselled defendants, the prevalence of the problem, and a diagnostic of why this problem exists.


Early Appointment of Counsel: The Law, Implementation, and Benefits
March 2014
Publication Number: 2014.004
[ download publication ]

Early-Appointment-of-Counsel-coverIn the more than 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court first declared access to counsel in criminal cases to be “fundamental and essential” to fair trials, the Court has similarly held that the “Sixth Amendment guarantees a defendant the right to have counsel present at all ‘critical’ stages of the criminal proceedings,” including those that occur before trial. What remains an open question is the precise moment in a criminal prosecution when counsel must be appointed to an indigent defendant in order to fulfill the promise of the Sixth Amendment. This joint issue paper of the Sixth Amendment Center and the Pretrial Justice Institute suggests that the justice goals of the criminal court systems will be best served where every indigent defendant has appointed counsel from the earliest moment that the indigent defense system learns the defendant is being investigated, has received a summons to appear, is arrested, or has a charging document filed against him.