During a speech to the American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD), a section of the National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder opened a new era of dialogue with the nation's indigent defense leaders and made a historic gesture to improve the quality of indigent defense in this country by proposing steps for improving the nation's overburdened criminal justice system. Mr. Holder said his five steps were necessary to "renew the department's commitment to improving the indigent defense system." Those five steps are:
1. Resume the dialogue between public defense leaders and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that was first started a decade ago with the formation of the ACCD.
2. Expand and sustain the current conversation taking place nationally about defense issues by holding regular meetings with the criminal defense bar.
3. Ensure public defenders are at the table when the DOJ meets with other criminal justice stakeholders.
4. Expand DOJ's commitment in collecting accurate and meaningful data on public defense programs, so it will be better equipped to answer questions and provide assistance.
5. The DOJ will host a national conference, built upon similar conferences held in 1999 and 2000, which will focus on issues related to indigent defense and will include discussions on strategy, development and innovative collaborations.
For more on NLADA and the ACCD, contact Jeff Billington, deputy director of communications, at j.billington@ nlada.org or 202-452-0620 ext. 230.