The right to counsel is a fundamental part of the fabric of our nation’s justice system. It is integral to our adversarial system of justice. And it ensures that individuals facing the loss of liberty are on an even playing field.

Across the country, publicly designated defense lawyers advocate on behalf of those accused of crimes who cannot afford a lawyer. The challenges they face are many—high caseloads, inadequate funding and a system that often seems stacked against them. But they nonetheless are expected to fulfill their constitutional duty to be zealous advocates on behalf of their clients. And to do so, they must have the independence to advance their clients’ interests over those of anyone else. These principles form the bedrock of the criminal legal system; when they are eroded, we cannot have faith in the integrity of our system.

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