Page 12 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
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The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees individuals accused of crimes the assistance of counsel—a skilled and devoted lawyer by their side advo- cating for their interests. The right to counsel is the foundation of an adversarial system of justice that is truly fair to all, as opposed to one that is stacked against those without money and influence. For the past two years we, along with 10 others, have had the honor of serving on a committee appointed by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. to study and report on the program that is responsible for delivering that fundamental right to roughly 250,000 people every year in federal courts throughout the country.
That program, with an annual budget of over a billion dollars, has been over- seen by judges since its inception more than half a century ago. When Congress mandated the creation of a federal system of public defense by passing the Criminal Justice Act in 1964, the judiciary was considered to be a temporary home for the fledgling program. Over the years, with support from the judiciary, that program has grown and matured tremendously, but is still under the judiciary’s control and, as a result, unable to fully accomplish its specific mission.
The needed course of action is clear: Congress should create an autonomous entity, not subject to judicial oversight and approval. Our recommendation echoes the conclusion reached nearly 25 years ago by the only other committee to compre- hensively review the Criminal Justice Act, which our Chair Emeritus the Honorable Edward C. Prado led. The call for independence in 1993 was highly controver-
sial and ultimately rejected. While it is not without controversy today, much has changed in the intervening decades.
Today, a preponderance of defense attorneys, federal judges, and outside experts believe the time has come to create an independent entity with the same mission as frontline defenders. The judiciary as a whole and individual federal judges were never well suited to the role Congress gave them. There were problems from the start, and those problems—the result of a cumbersome administrative structure that fails to
No recommendation presented herein represents A D H O C C O M M I T T E E T O R E V I E W T H E C R I M I N A L J U S T I C E A C T the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States unless approved by the Conference itself.

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