All Defendants, Rich and Poor, Should Get Appointed Counsel in Criminal Cases: the Route to True Equal Justice

Leroy D. Clark, The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law


No area of the law illustrates more the actual and perceived failure to ensure equal justice and serve the public interest by providing access to lawyers than the field of criminal representation. The distance between the quality of representation that a wealthy person (or corporation) receives in a criminal case and that received by an indigent person is scandalous. One need only contrast the careful, meticulous, successful representation that any number of high profile, wealthy defendants have had with the consistent reports of the overburdened and underfunded public defender and assigned counsel programs for indigents to see that we are failing to provide equal protection of the law to all individuals. The problem is vividly illustrated in the arena of criminal law, where a failure of equal protection has the most dire consequence-the administration of capital punishment.