Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Rebecca Marcus


The severe underfunding of the nation's Public Defender System has jeopardized the criminal defendant's right to adequate assistance of counsel. The denial of this right has a disproportionate impact upon racial minorities because they are disproportionately represented by public defenders. The result is a violation of minorities' Sixth Amendment right to counsel and Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection.

This Note examines the causes of under-funding and its effects on racial minorities. To remedy this discrimination, this Note offers several proposals, including a burden-shifting scheme, the use of the disparate impact standard to show discrimination (as opposed to the discriminatory purpose standard), and the application of strict scrutiny to statutes which fail to provide adequate funding to Public Defender offices.