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 6AC offers an emerging array of services 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.
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.