Intellectual Life Workshop: Irene Oritseweyinmi Joe

Wednesday, February 5 at 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Law Building (LAW), 3500
401 East Peltason Drive Irvine, CA 92697-8000

Irene Oritseweyinmi Joe, Acting Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law
Criminal law, criminal procedure, professional responsibility, voir dire, criminal trials: theory and practice

Professor Joe will be presenting her paper, "Who the Public Defender Should Be."

The public defender may be critical to protecting individual rights in the U.S. criminal process, but state governments take remarkably different approaches to structuring the distribution of services. Some state governments contextualize public defender services as a function of the executive branch of state governance. Others administer the services through the judicial branch. The remaining state governments separate the provision of services from the three traditional branches of government by rendering it independent of statewide management and delegating its administration to local or county governance.

But which branch of government properly oversees the public defender? Should the public defender exist under the same branch of government that oversees the prosecutor and the police – two entities that the public defender seeks to hold accountable in the criminal process? Should the provision of services be housed under the judicial branch which is ordinarily tasked with being a neutral arbiter in criminal proceedings? Perhaps a public defender who is independent of statewide governance is ideal even if that might render it a lesser player among the many government institutions battling for limited state resources.

This article seeks to provide an answer to this important question about state assignment by engaging in an original confrontation of each state’s architectural choices for the public defender. A state’s chosen design explicitly captures its definition of the public defender’s role in the criminal process. The chosen arrangement influences the type and quality of public defender funding and establishes the supervisory structure for the provision of services. Both of these characteristics are critical to the meaning and efficacy of the public defender institution.

This article’s primary contribution is to enrich our current understanding of how each state manages the public defender function and how that influences its funding and adherence to constitutional and ethical guidelines. It goes further by concluding that the public defender should be an important executive function in this modern era of mass criminalization and articulating modifications that would improve such a state design. This paper shows that the public defender’s ability to effectively function is fragile under existing management structures. The interventions prescribed in this paper, however, would help secure its essential role as the state’s protector of individual rights against the state’s own exercise of power.

Lunch will be provided.

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Intellectual Life Workshop


Centers, Intellectual Life
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