Newscasts

PNS Daily Newscast - July 20, 2018.  


Trump now wants Putin to visit the White House this fall; Also on the Friday rundown: health insurance rates to rise by almost 9 percent in California; and as the climate crises reaches “Zero Hour” young people take a stand.

Daily Newscasts

In Pursuit of Justice: TN Public Defenders Stretched as Demand Grows

Population growth, increased demand and a lack of budget increases are three factors contributing to Tennessee's shortage of public defenders in some jurisdictions. (Scalesofjustice/flickr.com)
Population growth, increased demand and a lack of budget increases are three factors contributing to Tennessee's shortage of public defenders in some jurisdictions. (Scalesofjustice/flickr.com)
May 5, 2016

FRANKLIN, Tenn. – This week Williamson County made headlines when the district's public defender said her assistants will not be taking on new cases because of their existing case load.

The Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference – charged with filling the state's obligation to provide a lawyer to those who can't afford one in criminal cases – says the problem exists throughout the state.

Paige Edwards, the conference’s assistant executive director, says she hears from many who are overwhelmed with cases.

"The fact that more courts have been created and you only have limited staff to go to all those courts, it's stretching the staff thin," she explains.

Edwards says population growth has added to demand and more state attorney positions haven't been added since the 2007 budget year.

In instances when a public defender is not available to be appointed as counsel, the judge can appoint a lawyer from the private bar. The bill is then paid through the Indigent Defense Fund using state tax dollars.

Edwards says while the Indigent Defense Fund fills the gap, it's not always cost efficient since attorneys are then paid hourly and may not have the experience with the criminal court system that public defenders do.

"It goes back to the Sixth Amendment,” she states. “It goes back to Gideon v. Wainwright – to a person's right to council when their liberty is at stake – and it's a constitutional right. It's a necessity for the administration of justice, for the protection of the community."

Other jurisdictions in other states are also experiencing a shortage of public defenders.

Earlier this year the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action lawsuit against the New Orleans Public Defenders Office over its placement of new clients on a waiting list for representation.


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN