Public Defenders

O’Connor Backs PD Prosecutors


Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is proposing a way to increase collegiality between public defenders and prosecutors: Put them in one office and make them occasionally switch sides, depending on the case.

O’Connor said in remarks at a conference yesterday that if she had a magic wand, she would create a staff of public lawyers who act both as prosecutors and public defenders, according to U.S. News and World Report. Trial lawyers in England serve in both roles, she said. They work in one office and earn the same pay.

The arrangement generates “a level of courtesy in courts that you don’t see here because they have been on both sides,” she said.

O’Connor spoke at a conference on Strickland v. Washington, the 1984 U.S. Supreme Court decision giving inmates a right to appeal their convictions based on ineffective assistance of counsel. O’Connor wrote the majority opinion. She told attendees that the decision’s standard for effective lawyering isn’t always met because of inadequate funding for public defenders.

O’Connor also said she would use a magic wand to require merit selection of judges instead of judicial elections, which force candidates to raise increasing amounts of cash, the Associated Press reports.

O’Connor arrived at the conference in a wheelchair and walked to the podium on crutches, reports The BLT: The Blog of the Legal Times. She told attendees she was having problems with her hip. A Supreme Court police officer tried to keep a Legal Times photographer from snapping a photo of the retired justice in the wheelchair.

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