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More from That Other Sanders: The Commonwealth Needs a Statewide Public Defender System!

I am also seeking delegates and senators to consider introducing a study bill to finally ask the question that this Commonwealth needs:  The feasibility and costs of expanding, not Medicare, but our crazy quilt public defender system (City of Richmond has a public defender office but not Henrico, nor Chesterfield nor Hanover Counties for example.) to statewide application with an appellate office and also post-conviction/innocence project section, too.

Here’s the 2004 study that brought all the court appointed attorneys under the Indigent Defense Commission:

But as important as this is, it does not answer the question:  Why and what will it cost to have a statewide PD system.  Several states about Virginia’s size have some sort of statewide PD system:  Missouri, Michigan (they have a statewide appellate defender system), Colorado and Massachusetts (a hybrid system).

I contend that the mere existence of a public defender office is an institutional advantage over court appointed attorneys, however gregarious or dedicated they would be.  Also, PD offices have sentencing and mitigation specialists, investigators and perhaps some money for expert help or consultation without having to reveal some aspect of their trial strategy to the Commonwealth through moving the judge for public funds.  it is unequal justice under law and it needs to stop.  The only way to bring the promise of Gideon (Gideon v. Wainwright is the seminal Supreme Court case that says the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution requires adequate representation regardless of ability to pay – the principle was eventually extended to all jailable offenses.)

So, I need help.  Look forward to the effort.  I’ll certainly help.  (Thanks to the office of a certain delegate for the 2004 study who I appreciate their help but I do not want to place on the spot publicly.)


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)

One Response to “More from That Other Sanders: The Commonwealth Needs a Statewide Public Defender System!”


  1. […] statewide network of public defender offices with an appellate and post-conviction unit. As long as we have […]

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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