Federal Public Defense in an Age of Inquisition

25 Pages Posted: 2 May 2013

See all articles by David Patton

David Patton

Federal Defenders of New York; NYU School of Law

Date Written: April 24, 2013


This Essay asks whether federal criminal defendants receive fairer process today than they did in 1963, when Gideon v. Wainwright was decided. It concludes that in many situations they do not; indeed, they often receive far worse. Although Gideon and the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 undoubtedly improved the quality and availability of counsel in the federal courts, extraordinary damage has been done since then to the aspect of the criminal justice system that makes lawyers so valuable: the adversary process. Sentencing severity, the control of that severity by prosecutors rather than judges or juries, and high rates of pretrial detention have greatly limited defendants’ ability to challenge the government’s version of the facts and the law. This Essay briefly describes federal criminal practice as it existed in 1963 and illustrates the shifts that have occurred by discussing current practice in the federal public defender office in New York City.

Keywords: criminal law, public defense, federal sentencing, federal criminal law, sentencing, criminal process, Gideon

JEL Classification: K14, K41

Suggested Citation

Patton, David, Federal Public Defense in an Age of Inquisition (April 24, 2013). Yale Law Journal, Vol. 122, p. 100, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2259109

David Patton (Contact Author)

Federal Defenders of New York ( email )

52 Duane St.
10th Floor
New York, NY 10007
United States

NYU School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

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