May 02, 2006

Public defender heritage

It didn't all start with Gideon, you know. Via Capital Defense Weekly:

Babcock, Barbara Allen, "Inventing the Public Defender", American Criminal Law Review, October 2006

Clara Foltz, one of the first women lawyers in the United States, was also the first to propose a public defender... As actually enacted in the Progressive Era twenty years after Foltz first proposed it, the public defender was less concerned with individual advocacy than with more generalized fair process. The history of the public defender reveals the tension between the models of zealous advocate and responsible public official, a tension both present at the creation and perhaps inherent in the office itself.

Bonus quote:

Without equal access to the law, the system not only robs the poor of their only protection, but it places in the hands of their oppressors the most powerful and ruthless weapon ever invented.

- Reginald Heber Smith — Justice and the Poor, 1919

See also Jerold Auerbach, Unequal Justice : Lawyers and Social Change in Modern America (New York: Oxford, 1976)