Here is an excerpt from Attorney General Eric Holder's remarks given at the Symposium (full remarks here).
As we all know, public defender programs are too many times under-funded. Too often, defenders carry huge caseloads that make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to fulfill their legal and ethical responsibilities to their clients. Lawyers buried under these caseloads often can't interview their clients properly, file appropriate motions, conduct fact investigations, or spare the time needed to ask and apply for additional grant funding. And the problem is about more than just resources. In some parts of the country, the primary institutions for the delivery of defense to the poor – I'm talking about basic public defender systems – simply do not exist.
I continue to believe that if our fellow citizens knew about the extent of this problem, they would be as troubled as you and I. Public education about this issue is critical. For when equal justice is denied, we all lose.
As a prosecutor and former judge, I know that the fundamental integrity of our criminal justice system, and our faith in it, depends on effective representation on both sides. And I recognize that some may perceive the goals of those who represent our federal, state, and local governments and the goals of those who represent the accused as forever at odds. I reject that premise. Although they may stand on different sides of an argument, the prosecution and the defense can, and must, share the same objective: Not victory, but justice. Otherwise, we are left to wonder if justice is truly being done, and left to wonder if our faith in ourselves and in our systems is misplaced.