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Free JusticeA History of the Public Defender in Twentieth-Century America$
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Sara Mayeux

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469661650

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469661650.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

Free Justice

Free Justice

(p.24) Chapter One Free Justice
Free Justice

Sara Mayeux

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter describes Progressive Era debates within the legal profession over proposals to establish a “public defender” in the criminal courts—a public official who would represent criminal defendants and counterbalance the public prosecutor. It describes different versions of the public defender idea, as developed by California lawyer Clara Foltz, New York lawyer Mayer Goldman, and the prominent Massachusetts lawyer Reginald Heber Smith, author of Justice and the Poor. Leaders of the bar, often affiliated with corporate law firms, expressed concerns that the public defender represented a step towards socialization of the legal profession. Instead, they preferred to handle indigent defense and other forms of legal aid through private charity. In 1917, New York lawyers rejected proposals for a government-controlled public defender and instead established a criminal branch of the Legal Aid Society.

Keywords:   Progressive Era, public defender, indigent defense, legal profession, Mayer Goldman, Clara Foltz, Legal Aid Society, Justice and the Poor, Reginald Heber Smith

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