FILE - Illinois Supreme Court Building

The Illinois Supreme Court Building in downtown Springfield, Illinois.

(The Center Square) – A multi-year report from the 6th Amendment Center points out problems in Illinois public defender process, calling the process unconstitutional for indigent defendants.

The state of Illinois is one of seven states that delegates to its county circuit court judges to provide public defense lawyers.

Jon Mosher, of the 6th Amendment Center, said due to the way the system is set up, there is a high possibility of a defendant not receiving a fair trial.

"At root, the problem is that these public defenders are not independent,” he said. “Public defense lawyers most of the time are dependent on trial court judges for their jobs. This opens up the possibility of receiving an unfair trial."

With Illinois delegating to its counties, Mosher says that the state is left out of the loop on important issues such as how many cases there are and how much these cases might cost. 

Illinois is one of 7 states in the country that still uses this system for appointing public defenders which Mosher says is a failure to evolve.

"The state of Illinois just hasn't evolved,” Mosher said. “The state has failed to evolve along with the basic parameters of what the constitution requires in terms of the right to counsel."

“Any solution must address both the independence and the oversight that are currently absent in Illinois’ indigent defense systems,” according to the report. “6AC’s recommendations offer Illinois policymakers a broad framework for establishing an independent state public defense commission to set and enforce binding statewide standards, supported by a central office to ensure accountability through periodic reports on the key indicators of systemic effectiveness of right to counsel services, including the early appointment of qualified and training attorneys, who have sufficient time and resources to provide effective representation under independent supervision.”

The Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and the Illinois Public Defender Association could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

Staff Reporter

Andrew Hensel has years of experience as a reporter and pre-game host for the Joliet Slammers, and as a producer for the Windy City Bulls. A graduate of Iowa Wesleyan University and Illinois Media School, Andrew lives in the south suburbs of Chicago.