The rights found in the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, including the right to counsel, are guaranteed to anyone accused of a crime. Yet they remain inaccessible to many indigent individuals across the country. That is because they are represented by lawyers burdened by excessive caseloads or lacking in qualifications, or by no lawyer at all. Systematic failures to ensure the right to counsel jeopardize the ability of courts to dispense justice, and contribute to over-incarceration and racial inequity.
The Center for Court Innovation and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association have provided strategic planning support to 10 jurisdictions across the U.S. to increase their capacities to uphold Sixth Amendment protections. Grounded in the Center’s unique research-practice approach, this report describes how former public defenders are paired with experienced researchers to work as a team to support the jurisdictions' strategic planning goals. Detailing the successes, challenges, and lessons learned, this report offers insights for future efforts to strengthen the rights of all of those accused of a crime.