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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

From Charity to Right

From Charity to Right

(p.57) Chapter Two From Charity to Right
Free Justice

Sara Mayeux

University of North Carolina Press

Using a case study of Massachusetts, this chapter traces a shift between the 1930s and the 1950s in how elite lawyers framed the problem of indigent defense—from a problem for private charity to a constitutional right requiring public support. By the 1930s, lawyers in several cities had established voluntary defender organizations as a private charitable alternative to the public defender. Meanwhile, a series of Supreme Court cases, interpreting the due process requirement of the Fourteenth Amendment, steadily expanded the constitutional right to counsel in criminal trials, culminating in the 1942 decision of Betts v. Brady. Voluntary defenders typically had volatile funding, and lawyers increasingly worried that these private organizations lacked adequate resources to fulfill the expanding constitutional mandate to provide counsel for indigent defendants. By the 1950s, many lawyers worried that private charity was inadequate to satisfy a constitutional right, and increasingly viewed the public defender as preferable to the voluntary defender.

Keywords:   voluntary defender, public defender, indigent defense, Fourteenth Amendment, right to counsel, Betts v. Brady, Massachusetts

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