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IT’S OUT! It’s FINALLY OUT! Del. Rasoul’s Visionary Bill Establishing a Statewide Public Defender System!

After weeks of discussion and waiting:  It’s OUT!  It’s FINALLY OUT!

HB 1296, Delegate Sam Rasoul’s visionary bill to bring more equal justice under law to the poor in the Commonwealth.

We have the money:  Seven statewide bar presidents signed a resolution in 2012 saying that there was $280m more in funds from the judicial branch than that branch needs in expenses.  To place it in a business context, the profit of the judiciary in the Commonwealth in 2012 was $280m.

There are public defender offices throughout the state except for the far west (There are four regional capital defender offices that have each a total statewide jurisdiction) but for example Richmond City and Petersburg City have PD offices but not Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover (nor Goochland and Powhatan, either!).  Most of Northern Virginia have PD offices but not Prince William County.  Neither Abingdon nor Bristol nor Wise County have a public defender office.

This verges on unequal justice under law.  Public defender offices have institutional advantages that court-appointed lawyers can seldom match.  Most public defender offices have support staff.  Many have an investigator to interview witnesses.  Several have appellate or sentencing/mitigation of punishment or juvenile specialists.  All have training and mentoring available.

It is past time for the poor throughout the Commonwealth to have equal access to the kind of advocacy indigents have in Richmond City or Fairfax or Newport News.  We need to pass Del. Rasoul’s bill in this session.  Contact your delegates and senators today.

 

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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