Approximately 500 public defenders, prosecutors, judges, legislators, government officials, and representatives from leading advocacy organizations gathered on February 18 and 19, 2010, for the National Symposium on Indigent Defense in Washington, DC. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Justice with the support of OJJDP and the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the symposium encompassed 5 plenary sessions and more than 40 workshops related to indigent adult and juvenile defense.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered the keynote address, following opening remarks by Laurie Robinson, Assistant Attorney General for OJP. The symposium's moderator was Charles Ogletree, Jesse Climenko Professor of Law at Harvard.
More than 40 years have passed since the landmark Supreme Court decisions in Gideon v. Wainwright and In re Gault which established the right to counsel for adults and juveniles in criminal and delinquency cases, respectively. Despite the decades that have elapsed since the Court's decisions, these cases "have yet to be fully translated into reality," said Attorney General Holder. "In too many counties and communities, too many peopleincluding juvenilesmay never have a lawyer. This is simply unacceptable. . . . Indigent defense must be the concern of every person who works on behalf of the public good."
Attorney General Holder cited the urgent need to expand partnerships at the federal, state, and local levels, both in and outside government to address the crisis in indigent and juvenile defense. To further that goal, Holder recently launched the Access to Justice Initiative, headed by Laurence Tribe, a national authority on constitutional law. Tribe will assume the role of primary liaison to the federal judiciary and work with federal, state, and tribal judiciaries to improve indigent adult and juvenile defense, enhance the delivery of legal services to the poor, and identify and promote effective alternatives to incarceration.
Symposium Includes Focus on Juvenile Justice Issues
Kristin H. Henning, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Juvenile Justice Center at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, DC, led a plenary session entitled "Innovations in Juvenile Defense Reform." The following national experts participated in the panel discussion: the Honorable Sue Bell Cobb, Chief Justice, Alabama Supreme Court; the Honorable Robert C. Scott, U.S. Representative (Virginia); Robert Listenbee, Jr., Chief, Juvenile Unit, the Defender Association of Philadelphia; and the Honorable Carlos J. Martinez, public defender, Miami, FL. Among the topics discussed were:
OJP and OJJDP senior officials and others served as moderators for numerous workshop discussions on strategies to enhance juvenile defense. Workshops addressed topics such as:
For more information on the National Symposium on Indigent Defense, click here.