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Welcome to the Right to Counsel National Campaign

Right to Counsel

Mission: To inform and engage policymakers, criminal justice stakeholders and the community on the importance of meaningfully carrying out the Sixth Amendment Right to Counsel.

Collective Vision: A fair and equitable criminal justice system requires representation by skilled defense counsel with adequate resources at every stage of the criminal process.

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Enhancing Caseflow Management to Ensure Effective Assistance of Counsel

The Justice Programs Office (JPO) is excited to announce a collaborative project, Enhancing Caseflow Management to Ensure Effective Assistance of Counsel , supported by the State Justice Institute (SJI) . As part of the ongoing work of the Right to Counsel (R2C) National Campaign and in partnership with the National Association for Court Management (NACM) and theNational Association of Presiding Judges and Court Executive Officers (NAPCO) , JPO will convene a multidisciplinary group of court practitioners and national experts to discuss practical strategies to enhance caseflow management with emphasis on effective assistance of counsel. As a result of this convening, the group will produce a management document for court practitioners nationwide with a set of recommendations. For more information, please contact Senior Policy Advisor Genevieve Citrin Ray at
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Campaign Goals

  • Start a national conversation and raise public awareness nationally of the importance of providing meaningful public defense services to criminal defendants who cannot afford a lawyer.
  • Spearhead broad-based initiatives by policymakers in multiple sectors, both within and outside of the criminal justice system, to take appropriate action.
  • Develop a strategic vision of the role of public defense that policymakers and criminal justice leaders integrate in the planning and operation of the public defense systems.

Theory of Change


  1. RTC National Campaign Vision: A fair and equitable criminal justice system requiresrepresentation by skilled defense counsel with adequate resources at every stage of the criminal process.
  2. Everyone has the constitutional right to an attorney.
  3. The 6th Amendment right to counsel ensures equality and equity.
  4. Public defense services are delivered within the framework of ABA's Ten Principles.

Existing External Conditions

  1. A lack of awareness exists about a) what the right to counsel means and b) that it isn't being upheld
  2. Public defense is often left out of the criminal justice reform conversation.
  3. Public defenders often operate with little and too few resources to provide effective counsel.
  4. There is a lack of consistency across the delivery of public defense nationwide.

RTC National Campaign Flow Chart

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Project Description

In continued effort to support the Department of Justice's Right to Counsel Initiative, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), in collaboration with the Right to Counsel (R2C) National Campaign Steering Committee, has convened a consortium of national, state and local criminal justice stakeholders, community advocates and policymakers to raise awareness of the important issues relevant to providing effective public defense services, and the systemic approach(es) -- involving both criminal justice and non-criminal justice stakeholders -- that are needed to ensure the effective delivery of public defense services and the right to counsel provided under the Sixth Amendment.

The consortium will develop no/low cost policies and a strategic vision to share with policymakers and criminal justice stakeholders at multiple levels, detailing how systems can ensure effective Right to Counsel, and, most important, the action planning necessary to implement this vision. In doing so, the Right to Counsel National Campaign will utilize a multi-faceted strategy, reaching out to policymakers and the public to orient them to the issues required for meaningfully implementing the Right to Counsel as well as to provide the defense service community with the necessary tools to carry out this obligation.

The Right to Counsel National Campaign comprises of the following components:

Planning Committee - a small group of national, state and local members guiding the campaign

Communications - a team assisting with public relations research, including public opinion polling, focus groups and in-depth interviews

Messaging - a team consisting of the Planning Committee members and Communications team producing messaging for different criminal justice stakeholders and sectors of national, state and local policymakers

Marketing - a team providing support in developing marketing material for the National Campaign

The Right to Counsel National Campaign uses many of the methodologies common to other BJA technical assistance initiatives - problem definition, information gathering, and strategic planning. However, what makes the Right to Counsel National Campaign unique is the added messaging and marketing components. Having the correct messaging for any particular group will be the key to making needed changes happen on a larger level. The project will also utilize the website associated with the current Right to Counsel Technical Assistance Project to facilitate access by the field to the Right to Counsel National Campaign. This website provides a focused destination for those working with and/or interested in public defense issues, including national, state and local policymakers, a wide range of policy, operational, and other information, such as upcoming public defense events. A special segment of the website highlights relevant research underway.

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Messaging Goals

  • Educating state and local criminal justice stakeholders on what the Right to Counsel entails and why it is important
  • Participation in national and other meetings of key criminal justice agencies/organizations on the importance of adequate counsel for their respective disciplines
  • Participation in meetings of other policymakers (legislators, county government officials, and others) to convey the importance of integrating the right to counsel in policy development
  • Continued broad outreach to criminal justice practitioners, policymakers and other community stakeholders through online resources, including "fact sheets", "policy guidelines" and related tools that can be used to enhance the public's understanding of and advocacy for effective public defense services for everyone -not simply the defendant.
National Public Opinion Survey cover