What We Do

We offer expert support to federal, state, and local policymakers and stakeholders who want to improve their indigent defense services. We share objective information and a national perspective on what works and does not work. We trust that the legislative process results in constitutional services that meet the unique needs of a jurisdiction.

Reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.

— Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)

The assistance of counsel is one of the safeguards of the Sixth Amendment deemed necessary to insure fundamental human rights of life and liberty. . . . The Sixth Amendment stands as a constant admonition that, if the constitutional safeguards it provides be lost, justice will not still be done.

— Johnson v. Zerbst (1938)

A public defender is not amenable to administrative direction in the same sense as other state employees. And equally important, it is the State's constitutional obligation to respect the professional independence of the public defenders whom it engages.

— Polk County v. Dodson (1981)