Legal aid for criminal defendants in the United States consists of providing free and effective defense counsel to those who cannot afford it. This service takes various forms, including the public defender system (all services are provided by the municipality it represents), the private contract system (individuals or corporations compete for contracts from a municipality to handle indigent criminal cases), as well as the pro bono system (private practitioners voluntarily or involuntarily handle indigent criminal cases on a rotating basis). A comparatively recent development in U.S. history, legal aid was first recognized as a legal right in the mid-nineteenth century. It has since continued to be the object of scrutiny both inside and outside the courts.

Legal Background

The National Legal Aid and Defender Association traced the ...

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