The Salt Lake Tribune had an opinion piece earlier this week that highlighted the need and problems with the public defender system in Utah. According to the article, 48 states fund and supervise the process for ensuring representation for the indigent. Utah is one of the two states that do not. Each county devises its own system for people who cannot afford their own lawyer. Many counties spend as little as possible on public defenders, meanwhile providing ample resources to their prosecution departments.
In Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court held that state courts are required to provide counsel in criminal trials for people who cannot afford a lawyer. Earlier this year, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Gideon, but still Utah does not have a statewide system for defending the indigent.
It really is important that everyone be given a proper attorney and trial. It would be hard to overstate how important it is to have a competent attorney who has the time to dedicate to an individual case. Everyone in Utah should let their representatives know that they do not approve of the current situation.