Criminal Case outcomes between Private Attorneys and State-Assigned Defenders
Bright, S. B. (2010). Legal representation for the poor: Can society afford this much injustice?
Missouri Law Review, 75, 683-714. Retrieved from
Bright acknowledges that the state of state-appointed counsel is appalling and needs a
revolution. The principle, descending from the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright afford legal
counsel to Americans who cannot afford private lawyers. However, even though the right to a
public defender may have been meant to afford justice to the poor, the scenario on the ground is
unfortunate. Bright reviewed the right throughout American states and found that justice is not
afforded the poor and the phenomenon of lost cases is not uncommon. The problem lies in the
overwhelming job the state-appointed attorneys have to do to defend the poor. The odds seem
against the poor and state support is needed much more than ever.
Joy, P. A. (2014). Unequal assistance of counsel. Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy,
24(3), 518-538. Retrieved from
The promise of the Sixth Amendment of equal counsel before the law is only theoretical
and hardly practical. The problem lies in the overloaded cases given to state-provided attorneys
which implies that they are less likely to dedicate quality services to Americans who cannot
afford lawyers. The outcome is a disproportionate representation and the likely legal loss of less
fortunate clients. The most disturbing aspect is the significant disadvantages facing poor
minorities. The high representation of minorities in Americana jails could be explained by the
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 3
lack of proper representation which directly points to poor services offered by public attorneys.
Therefore the right to legal representation has not benefited the poor but has only created
Cohen, T. H. (2014). Who is better at defending criminals? Does type of defense attorney matter
in terms of producing favorable case outcomes. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 25(1),
29-58. Retrieved from
The question of which counsel (i.e., between assigned, privately retained, and public
defenders) results in the most favorable outcome to guide the next phase of public defense policy
is still unresolved. Cohen combed through data repositories kept by the Bureau of Justice
Statistics (BJS) to find which representation is appropriate. He finds that adjudication as well as
sentencing outcomes favored privately retained representation and public defenders but not
assigned representation. The outcome of Cohen’s findings stands in stark contrast with the belief
that less financially able Americans cannot afford adequate justice. On the contrary, even public
defenders are still as competent as privately hired attorneys.
Anderson, J. M., Heaton, P., RAND, & United States of America. (2012). Measuring the effect
of defense counsel on homicide case outcomes. The U.S. Department of Justice.
Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/241158.pdf
Research on the case outcomes of different counsel arrangements is confusing and there
is no agreement as to which arrangement is better. Therefore, the authors looked at random
counsel assignations ordered by the court for similar cases across the United States in a bid to
confirm whether the experience of the defender had a hand in the outcome. The analysis proved
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 4
that public defenders had a significant outcome on cases primarily basing on their enormous
experience working through numerous cases than private counsel. This study yet again proves
that under normal circumstances, the poor have [theoretically] better representation than wealthy
citizens. Case uniqueness is also a factor to consider.
Sandefur, R. L. (2010). The impact of counsel: An analysis of empirical evidence. Seattle
Journal for Social Justice, 9(1), 51-95. Retrieved from
Access to representation is still a challenge in the United States. For such a country as
America to have a significant segment of its people unable to secure quality and affordable legal
representation is a shame. According to the author of this article, the problem begins with the
American tradition of viewing the justice system through a narrow scope that every citizen has to
fit. For example, even though all Americas are entitled to representation and that showing up in
court with an attorney is far better than without, the judicial system itself does not offer any
equality guarantees before the law. Problems begin by access hurdles and further manifest in
working cases with public defenders and assigned counsels.
Anderson, J. M., & Heaton, P. (2012). How much difference does the lawyer make: The effect of
defense counsel on murder case outcomes. RAND. Retrieved from
In the case of Philadelphia, the ratio of court-assigned defenders to random public
defenders in murder cases is 1:1. However, the researchers found that public defenders had better
outcomes than court-assigned private attorneys (CAPAs). It implies that in every murder case in
Philly, there is a higher chance that an individual represented by a public defender will
experience better outcomes. The implications are even worse for poor Americans involved in
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 5
capital crimes. The disparity comes from institutional factors endemic to Philadelphia and more
so the fact that CAPAs are not as prepared as their counterparts when heading for a trial and do
not have the significant experience wielded by random public defenders.
Joy, P. A. (2011). Rationing justice by rationing lawyers. Washington University Journal of Law
& Policy, 37(1), 205-225. Retrieved from
The case of justice rationing in Missouri is a nationwide problem that threatens justice for
Americans who cannot afford it. The rationing is caused by the very few public defenders in the
hands of different jurisdictions due to funding problems. Public defenders are overwhelmed and
the fatigue is impacting their quality of service to the detriment of those they defend. The result
has been inequality in legal presentation without seemingly contravening the Sixth Amendment.
The miscarriage of justice is a likely phenomenon since fatigued public defenders cannot
effectively fight court battles. America must stop rationing public defense services and begin
injecting resources to ensure that justice remains fair for all.
Nicholson, L. H. (2013). Access to justice requires access to attorneys: Restrictions on the
practice of law serve a societal purpose. Fordham Law Review, 82(6), 2761-2815.
Retrieved from http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/flr/vol82/iss6/8.
The legal services market is tightly controlled by the American Bar Association (ABA).
The ABA sets rules such as who offers legal services and who does not which often rules out
non-attorneys. However, the latter has been instrumental in helping with criminal cases
throughout the United States. Lobby groups are pushing for the ABA to also allow non-attorneys
to compete in the legal services market to create affordability more so for those Americans who
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 6
need quality legal services yet cannot afford them. The FTC also backs such a move. Even
though the policies of the ABA are crucial in regulating the legal services market, it is hurting
America’s poor facing the justice system.
Gilman, M. E. (2012). The poverty defense. University of Richmond Law Review, 47, 495-553.
Retrieved from http://ssrn.com/abstract=2201065
Poverty and economy disparity are still issues facing the United States yet Americans
from the poor segment of the nation’s population are still overrepresented in the criminal justice
system. The need for defending less [financially] able Americans as they wrestle their fate
through the criminal justice system is pressing more than before. According to the article, it
appears ridiculous that the sixth amendment ensures that all Americans are equally represented
before the law yet the system is bent on putting more poor Americans behind bars. There is a
need for reforming the culture of the criminal justice system and not necessarily the sixth
Primus, E. B. (2017). Defense counsel and public defense. In Luna, E. (ed.), Reforming Criminal
Justice: Pretrial and Trial Processes (pp. 121-145). Phoenix, AZ: Academy for Justice.
Retrieved from https://repository.law.umich.edu/book_chapters
The delivery systems behind public defense are grossly inadequate. Those who the
system protects (i.e., poor Americans) face the worst legal representation and even miscarriage
of justice. Public defenders are inexperienced and fatigued from the numerous cases they handle.
The system itself is not independent of outside influences that work against its clients. Poor
minority Americans are the most affected. The system cannot be represented as other Americans
unless the system is reformed. Otherwise, America will continue flouting justice against those
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY 7
who [really] need it and wasting time and resources in the process. The legitimacy of the entire
criminal justice system is therefore in doubt.