Rhode Island Public Defender, John Hardiman, has informed the Providence Journal that his staff is among the most overworked in the country. Each attorney on average handles 1517 misdemeanors and 239 felony cases each year! That’s right, almost two thousand cases!
Not only is this caseload excessive, it would likely be considered unethical if maintained by a for-profit attorney because it is impossible to protect a clients best interest when so overworked. But of course, these cases are forced upon the RIPD which cannot reject them. Cases are only referred to court appointed attorneys when the RIPD has a conflict of interest. Oh, and by the way, the system which pays court appointed attorneys is also woefully underfunded.
I was fortunate enough to intern at the RIPD during law school and I have the upmost respect for all of the attorneys who practice there. They do a tremendous job for their clients under difficult conditions that no private attorney would be forced to work under. Interestingly, our criminal justice system has no lack of resources for the Attorney General’s Office. Our legislators provide to the AG’s Office because they believe that voters want to see criminals put in jail. It is upon us as the voters, to let the legislators know that justice is equally important to results.