Part Three of The Sixth Amendment Center’s recent report discusses issues of accountability in Delaware’s Criminal Court, which greatly impact minority communities because people of color are involved in the system at a much higher rate than non-minorities. Delaware’s system does not have dedicated training and supervision for the lawyers representing indigent defendants. As a result, the defendants do not have adequate representation or advocacy from their public defense attorneys. For example, oftentimes public defenders only investigate their most serious cases. Also, the norm in the Delaware Criminal Court is for public defenders to enter guilty pleas for their clients, even though they only meet the vast majority of the clients minutes before the hearing begins.
Those inefficient standards could be addressed by implementing a system of accountability. That system would need to assess the both the individual attorneys’ practices, as well as the effects of the overall system. Delaware currently has no monitoring system in place to identify areas of need. In fact, this report performs the function that the Delaware Criminal Court needs to implement internally when it comes to identifying gaps in the system, overall deficiencies, and overarching problems preventing public defenders from efficiently representing their clients.
The report presents the following overall recommendations:
- Implement effective ethical screening to promote a cohesiveness among the various areas within the public defense system
- Making it so that children in Family Court are not allowed to waive their right to counsel
- Establishing a systematic effort to appoint counsel to indigent defendants as soon as possible and to put in place a system of vertical representation
- Require standards of adequate representation for clients by training attorneys and monitoring the system’s progress on an ongoing basis
Patrice Garnette, Joint Center Graduate Scholar, The George Washington University Law School