Nethercott, Starger on Maryland’s overloaded public defenders

Professors Colin Starger and Michele Nethercott are quoted in a Dec. 16 story that appeared in The Washington Post, “In Maryland, public defenders bear uneven burden.”

While public defenders are overloaded throughout the state, the situation in some areas is dire, which means indigent defendants have a greater chance of receiving ineffective counsel, according to public defenders and legal experts.

Caseload standards were met by only one-quarter of Maryland’s 12 public-defender district offices in 2014, the most recent year for which data was available, according to the story by Associated Press reporter Eleanor Mueller.

“There’s a crisis in indigent defense,” said Nethercott, the director of UB’s Innocence Project Clinic.

Starger said that the situation has hit a “brutal level” in which public defenders can’t provide proper representation to indigent defendants.

“There’s less human dignity, less contact, less counseling,” said Starger, the co-director of UB’s Pretrial Justice Clinic. “It moves on the spectrum away from a justice system towards one that’s a processing system.”

Added Nethercott: “This is not unique to Maryland. It’s a problem throughout the country.”

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