Updated 4/22/13 at 9:04 a.m.
The District of Columbia is home to what's widely considered the gold-standard of local public defender offices, but a panel of right-to-counsel advocates today challenged the courts and the criminal justice community not to grow complacent.
"D.C. is a place where the expectations are incredibly high, and they should be," said Jonathan Rapping, a former local public defender who founded Gideon's Promise, an Atlanta-based organization that supports public defender offices in southern states. When it came to ensuring access to justice, he urged local attorneys and judges to ask among themselves, "What else can we do?"
Rapping was part of a panel today during the annual joint session of the Judicial Conference of the District of Columbia and the D.C. Bar. The theme of this year's bench-bar conference was access to counsel, in light of the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that secured the right to counsel for criminal defendants.