Publication Date

Spring 4-22-2024


College of Arts and Sciences; Helms School of Government


Government: Pre-Law; Interdisciplinary Studies


public defender, appointed counsel, sixth amendment, underfund, constitutionality, strickland v. washington, cronic, gideon v. wainwright, appointed counsel, criminal rights, legal, criminal justice


Constitutional Law | Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility | Litigation | Supreme Court of the United States


When a defendant is ineffectively represented by a public defender due to an underfunded public defender system, a defendant whose public defender provides him only cursory representation is entitled to a new trial only if blatantly innocent. The U.S. Supreme Court should follow its precedent and declare systemically underfunded public defender systems unconstitutional, with cases meriting reversal when the underfunding is to blame for unreasonable attorney errors, regardless of prejudice. This stems logically from the Court’s holdings in Gideon v. Wainwright, Strickland v. Washington, and United States v. Cronic. Many have argued for the reversal or modification of Strickland’s prejudice requirement, but advocating for this nuanced application to underfunded public defender systems provides a more likely, more natural application of Strickland rather than reversal.