Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Minor Criminals Deserve Public Defenders

The Denver Post

U.S. District Judge will hear oral arguments Thursday on whether a lawsuit that could change state law regarding public defenders for people charged with misdemeanors should proceed.
A law enacted in 1992 states that those defendants don’t get a public defender until they are in discussions with prosecutors about a plea deal.
Last year, the Colorado Defense Bar and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition sued the state attorney general, public defender and all of Colorado’s district attorneys, saying the law violates the Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
Colorado’s statute was criticized in 2008 by the U.S. Supreme Court
in an opinion issued in the case of Walter Rothgery, a Texas man
who was not provided an attorney for several months after a first
appearance in court. The justices ruled in Rothgery’s favor, saying the right to counsel attaches when a defendant makes an initial appearance
before a judge to be advised of charges.
State Public Defender Doug Wilson tried to get Colorado’s law changed by the legislature. At the time, he estimated that doing so would add another 15,000 cases to his office’s caseload. When his efforts were unsuccessful, the defense bar and CCJRC filed the lawsuit – naming Wilson as one of the defendants.
In a motion to dismiss the case, Colorado’s district attorneys argued that the issue should be handled by the legislature, not the courts. They also say that the plaintiffs have alleged a “hypothetical controversy” about prospective defendants, rather than shown injury to an actual person or group of people as a result of the law (as the Rothgery case did). That argument is one Kane has told both sides he wants to explore further during Thursday’s hearing.
Boulder County District Attorney will argue for the DAs during the hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m.

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