Some Republicans, with the support of the conservative Koch brothers, have championed the cause of public defense reform,Alysia Santo, “How Conservatives Learned to Love Free Lawyers for the Poor,” Politico, September 24, 2017; Andrew Cohen, “A New Conservative Approach to Justice: Serve the Poor,” The Marshall Project, May 12, 2015; and Daniel Erspamer, “In Defense of Louisiana’s Criminal Justice Reforms,” Right On Crime.
They and other conservatives are defining the current public defense crisis as “just another example of big government abuse”—in other words, a matter of individual rights.See Santo, “How Conservatives Learned to Love Free Lawyers for the Poor” (2017). Using these arguments and working with advocates like David Carroll of the Sixth Amendment Defense Center, Republicans have been leading successful reform efforts in Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, and Utah for over a decade.For Idaho’s reform efforts, see Idaho HB 504 (2016); for an update on Louisiana’s reform efforts, see Della Hasselle, “Why a Recent Law to Shield Cash-Strapped Public Defenders from Budget Cuts May Not Work,” New Orleans Advocate, January 14, 2017; for Michigan’s Indigent Defense Commission Act, sponsored by Republican Tom McMillin, see Mich. Comp. Laws 780.981 et seq. For an update on Michigan’s reform efforts see Justin Hinkley, “Would Michigan Legislature Give $87M to Defend Poor People Accused of a Crime?,” Lansing State Journal, December 26, 2017; for Utah’s reform efforts, see Utah SB 155 (2016); and David Carroll, “Utah Reforms Indigent Defense with First-Ever State Dollars for Trial Representation,” Sixth Amendment Center, March 16, 2016. Republicans are currently helping to lead efforts to enact similar reforms in Indiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.Santo, “How Conservatives Learned to Love Free Lawyers for the Poor” (2017). For Indiana’s efforts see Public Defense Commission, “Formation of the Indiana Task Force on Public Defense,” press release (Indiana: Public Defense Commission, August 16, 2017); for Mississippi’s efforts see Jeff Amy, “New Mississippi Criminal Court Rules Address Bail, Lawyers,” Associated Press, July 4, 2017; for Tennessee, see Adam Tamburin, “Tennessee Supreme Court Backs 'Major Reforms' to Legal Representation for Poor,” Tennessean, October 3, 2017.