WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL PUBLIC DEFENDER?
April 17, 2021
There are more than 2 million people incarcerated in the United States. This is the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Given this phenomenon, the role of criminal defense attorneys in American culture and society is extremely important and cannot be overstated. Specifically, the role of a criminal defense attorney is to provide competent representation for the accused at every stage of criminal proceedings.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to be represented by counsel to all persons formally accused of criminal activity. The government has the responsibility of providing free and effective legal representation to every defendant in a criminal action who cannot afford to hire an attorney. The government accomplishes this through a variety of methods such as volunteer panels, contracting with private attorneys and establishing defender offices.
At the federal level, the government funds defender offices that provide representation to those that cannot afford private counsel. Since the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act of 1964, there have been 81 federal defender organizations established that serve 91 of the 94 federal judicial districts and employ more than 3,700 lawyers, investigators, paralegals and support personnel throughout the United States. Although these organizations are independently run, they are subsidized and funded by the federal government.
The federal defender organizations either operate under the judicial branch of the federal government (overseen by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts) or they operate as a federal community defender organization set up as a corporation acting independently from the federal judiciary. Federal public defender organizations function under the direction of a chief federal public defender who is appointed to a four-year term by the Court of Appeals of the Circuit in which the organization is located. For example, the Chief Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles is selected and appointed by the Judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The staff of each federal defender organization are considered federal employees and are compensated as such.
Because there are significantly fewer federal public defenders than there are prosecutors, the competition for jobs at these offices can be very competitive. While some may believe that public defenders are less qualified than private counsel, this perception is entirely mistaken. The quality of most lawyers employed by the federal public defender offices is exceptional. Many of the best and brightest of law school graduates vie and compete for these jobs given the tremendous responsibility they involve.
Federal public defenders play a key and integral part in the criminal justice in the United States. They ensure indigent defendants receive first-rate representation and all the protections provided by the United States Constitution.
Former federal prosecutor, respected lawyer committed to delivering results. Following graduation from the University of Illinois College of Law, Paul Padda began his career in 1994 with the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. litigating complex civil cases in both federal trial and appellate courts. He later was selected to serve as an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) where he handled a wide array of civil matters in federal court on behalf of the United States of America. In 2004, Mr. Padda moved to Las Vegas to serve as an Assistant United States Attorney where he litigated both civil and criminal cases. Following 16 years of significant legal experience involving high stakes litigation, Mr. Padda decided to form a law firm that would assist individuals and businesses in vindicating their legal rights.