The Commonwealth is one small step closer to equal justice under law tonight with the introduction of Senate Joint Resolution 51, sponsored by Senator Rosalyn R. Dance and co-sponsored by Delegates Lashrecse D. Aird (newly elected) and Lamont Bagby. (I expect one or more delegates to sign on to it; stay tuned.) Here is the place to read the text of the bill and here is the blurb about it:
SJ 51 Comprehensive indigent defense system; State Crime Commission to study.
SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:
Study; indigent defense; report. Directs the Virginia State Crime Commission to study the feasibility and costs of establishing a comprehensive indigent defense system in the Commonwealth.
Now here is the full text:
SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 51 Offered January 13, 2016Prefiled January 6, 2016Directing the Virginia State Crime Commission to study the feasibility and costs of establishing a comprehensive indigent defense system in the Commonwealth. Report.
———-Patrons– Dance; Delegates: Aird and Bagby———-Referred to Committee on Rules———-
WHEREAS, in 1920, the Virginia General Assembly first determined the need for more adequate defense of indigents in the Commonwealth, but it was not until 1972 that the Virginia Public Defender Commission (now the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission) was established and the General Assembly established the first public defender offices; and
WHEREAS, public defender offices currently exist in some jurisdictions of the Commonwealth but not in others; and
WHEREAS, it is imperative to evaluate the disparity in services and resources between those jurisdictions that have public defender offices and those that do not; and
WHEREAS, in the past, the General Assembly has studied various issues associated with indigent defense but never the feasibility of a statewide public defender system with an appellate defender and post-conviction unit; and
WHEREAS, it is necessary to study the amount and sources of funds that the judicial branch brings into the state budget, as well as other sources of funds such as court costs and split recovery for punitive damages, as potential sources of funds to establish and maintain a statewide public defender system; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, That the Virginia State Crime Commission be directed to study the feasibility and costs of establishing a comprehensive indigent defense system in the Commonwealth and potential sources of funds for a statewide public defender system with an appellate defender and post-conviction unit. In conducting its study, the Virginia State Crime Commission shall focus on three broad areas: the feasibility of a statewide system and how best to establish and maintain such a system; the costs to establish and maintain a statewide system, including identification of potential sources of funds; and the disparities that exist as a result of the existing system, including whether those disparities warrant the establishment of a statewide public defender system.
All agencies of the Commonwealth shall provide assistance to the Commission for this study, upon request.
The Commission shall complete its work in time to submit its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the 2017 Session of the General Assembly as provided in the procedures of the Division of Legislative Automated Systems for the processing of legislative documents.
It’s not too late for YOUR delegate and senator to sign on to this bill. Let’s find out what it will take to have a statewide indigent defense system and why we should do it.
Article written by: Elwood "Sandy" Sanders