Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. today outlined a plan in which the Department of Justice seeks to expand its commitment to improving legal services for indigent criminal defendants.
Calling services for indigent offenders in a state of “crisis,” Holder vowed the department will have a greater role in dialogue among public defender agencies across the country.
“Our goal at this Department of Justice is that justice shall be done,” Holder said in remarks delivered to the National Legal Aid & Defender Association today in Georgetown. “That means that when the system breaks down, we all lose.”
The Justice Department, Holder said, is planning more regular meeting with the public criminal defense bar. The goals of prosecution and defense are not irreconcilable, he said.
Holder said Justice components intend to include public defenders in meetings. And the department is planning a national conference to highlight innovative programs and to strategize for greater funding. Holder called it an ambitious agenda.
“I think the true measure of who we are as a nation is what we do for people who are economically unable to defend themselves,” Holder said during a brief question-and-answer session following his remarks.