The Right to Counsel in Criminal Cases, A National Crisis

101 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2011

See all articles by Paul Marcus

Paul Marcus

William & Mary Law School

Mary Sue Backus

University of Oklahoma College of Law

Date Written: 2006


Poor people account for more than 80% of individuals prosecuted. These criminal defendants plead guilty approximately 90% of the time. In those cases, many lawyers entered pleas for their clients without spending any significant time on the cases, without interviewing witnesses or filing motions, and with hardly a word to their clients. But the first rule of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct indicates that “competent representation” requires “the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.” This article chronicles the Supreme Court’s doctrine regarding the constitutional right to counsel of indigent defendants. The article also describes recent research conducted by the National Committee on the Right to Counsel, which reveals common problems facing state and local governments in meeting their constitutional obligations. Finally, this article offers recommendations that governments should implement to protect the right to counsel and suggests ways in which groups or individuals may generate these reforms.

Keywords: prosecute, criminal, defendant, plea, counsel, reform, indigent, and representation

Suggested Citation

Marcus, Paul and Backus, Mary Sue, The Right to Counsel in Criminal Cases, A National Crisis (2006). Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 57, No. 6, p. 1031, 2005-2006, William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-92, Available at SSRN:

Paul Marcus (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

South Henry Street
P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
United States
757-221-3900 (Phone)
757-221-3261 (Fax)

Mary Sue Backus

University of Oklahoma College of Law ( email )

300 Timberdell Road
Norman, OK 73019
United States
4053254948 (Phone)

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