Cultural Revolution: Papers from the Executive Session on Public Defense
By Robin Steinberg and David Feige.
Public defenders everywhere are beginning to reassess the most fundamental questions of what it means to provide effective representation for clients. Frustrated by the limitations traditionally imposed by government funders who seek to satisfy minimal constitutional requirements, public defenders are asking themselves if there is more they can do for the clients and communities they represent. By changing the way public defenders see their clients, their communities, and themselves, we can fundamentally alter the relationship among the three for the benefit of all.
Even talking about changing what public defenders do and how they define their roles is liable to terrify most managers of public defender offices. Our culture is so ingrained and traditional that calls for cultural change are usually met with statements like, “My lawyers won’t do that;” “My funders won’t let me do that;” “My community isn’t interested in that;” or “It sounds great in practice, but it’ll never work for me.”
This bulletin is designed to do two things: provoke a discussion about the most basic values of the public defender culture in order to create a desire to reevaluate these values and provide a set of concrete suggestions by which public defender managers can move an office from the traditional model to a more holistic one.
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