When the Right to Counsel is Not Enough: Toward a Broader Understanding of the Value of Public Defender Services

Wendy Pogorzelski, University at Albany

This paper will focus on how public defender managers, as leaders of a government agency, have created a fluid definition of the value of their program's services that incorporates, yet also transcends, the right to counsel. The managers of public defender offices must attent to a diver group of stakeholders, including political and criminal justice actors and the public; a static legal definition of why a public defender office is important is too narrow. In order to secure support and maintain agency legitimacy, the value of services provided by the public defender office needs to be defined and communicated in a way that resonates with diverse constituencies. This paper will also discuss the different contexts and forms that such political management must take in order to demonstrate the significance and value of the public defender office. Data were collected from a sample of New York State public defender managers through in-depth interviews and direct observation.

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Updated 05/20/2006