The establishment of the Sixth Amendment Center (6AC) in Boston in 2013 represents a dawning in our country’s now 50-year struggle to ensure a fair day in court for the indigent accused. Far too often, our state and local courts fail to provide an attorney at all to poor people charged with crime, or, if they do so, they appoint an attorney who has financial incentives to do as little work as possible, is appointed far too late in the case to be effective, and is expected to juggle the cases of several hundreds of defendants all at the same time.
The Sixth Amendment Center seeks to ensure that no person faces potential time in jail or prison without first having the aid of a lawyer with the time, ability and resources to present an effective defense, as required under the United States Constitution. We do so by measuring public defense systems against Sixth Amendment case law and established standards of justice. When shortcomings are identified, we help states and counties make their courts fair again in ways that promote public safety and fiscal responsibility.
The 6AC offers an array of expert support to state and local policymakers as they work to transform their criminal justice systems from the dark days of assembly-line justice to a future where every person who stands accused receives an independent lawyer with the time, skill, and resources to present a fair defense.
Technical Assistance & Independent Systemic Evaluations
Public defense systems of all shapes and sizes (from large public defender offices in big cities to assigned counsel panels in rural counties), trial courts to state supreme courts, informal groups of concerned citizens, official government commissions, and federal agencies have found our knowledge and advice to be invaluable. We provide the technical assistance that meets your needs.
It is often difficult, if not impossible, to correct a problem without first knowing what is causing that problem. This is particularly true when it comes to criminal justice policy in general and the delivery of right to counsel services specifically. An outsider’s perspective is critical. The Sixth Amendment Center offers independent evaluations, using Sixth Amendment case law and national standards for right to counsel services as the uniform baseline measure for all methods of providing attorneys to indigent people, along with the requirements of local and federal laws. We do not play politics with our findings, and instead offer local stakeholders the opportunity to review and comment on the findings included in our draft reports prior to publication.
Our staff members are not lobbyists, and we do not file lawsuits. Rather, the Sixth Amendment Center serves as the nation’s center of information about the right to counsel. We make this information available as a public service. We encourage you to look around on our website, as more and more content is added daily. Here, we provide the history of and constitutional requirements and national standards for fulfilling the right to counsel. The basic facts and current status of how each state and territory provides, or fails to provide, the right to counsel are available here. You can learn about the status of the right to counsel in America today and specific topics and issues here. And 6AC’s blog, Pleading the Sixth, explains what you’ve just read in the news, providing historical, legal, and standards-based context for the successes and failures in our nation’s ongoing efforts to provide a meaningful right to counsel. If you do not find the answer to whatever question you might have or if you’d like to have us speak to your organization, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. We’re happy to help.