Legislative Updates: 115th Congress
Rep. Deutch Reintroduces National Center for the Right to Counsel Act
Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22) has reintroduced the National Center for the Right to Counsel Act, legislation to expand access to indigent defense by establishing a private, nonprofit corporation that aims to supplement current state and local systems.
The National Center for the Right to Counsel will provide financial support for public defense systems and for training programs that aim to improve the delivery of legal services to indigent criminal defendants. The Center will also engage in research; training and technical assistance; and serve as a clearinghouse for information relating to the delivery of indigent defense services. In addition, the Center will create and maintain an online database that will be available publicly online and include contact information for all public defense systems in every state.
A 2012 report from the Government Accountability Office found that while the federal government provides over $500 million each year to state and local criminal justice systems, only one tenth of 1 percent actually goes to representing the indigent. Deutch's bill will require that no less than 10 percent of federal funding made available for the Justice Department’s Byrne JAG grant program will be provided to the Center. The Center will be composed of 9 voting Board members appointed to 5 year terms by the President and confirmed by the Senate. These Board members will have significant experience in the criminal justice system; demonstrate a commitment to quality indigent defense representation; and demonstrate a commitment to working with and advocating for the population served by the Center.
The text of H.R. 3811 is available here.