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A Well-Grounded Fear

Civil Reform of Criminal Justice

By Beth Colgan

The promise of a right to counsel in a criminal proceeding is rendered meaningless when representation of the accused is undertaken by attorneys who are unqualified and inexperienced or whose own financial interests are at odds with zealous advocacy for their clients. This was the case in Grant County, Washington, where the county public defense system had failed to provide accused persons with adequate representation. To ensure that criminal defendants in the county would realize the full benefits of a right to a lawyer, civil legal aid advocates challenged this system in Best v. Grant County.

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