Friday, March 09, 2007

It's the Constitution, Stupid

New Orleans hasn't cornered the market on under-funded public defense. Apparently the Georgia system is struggling to get by on its budget funded by court fines and fees, and one particularly expensive case is threatening to break the bank. I feel their pain.

I'm all for keeping a tight watch on expenses. After all, the public tax payers should be entitled to have their money well spent. But it seems that at least one state legislator is missing the point. The Georgia State House Speaker protests that a judge is telling the legislature what it should be funding. The audacity! I suspect the offending judge was merely pointing to a little thing called the Constitution. And we know from our good friend Gideon that the State is responsible for paying for counsel when the defendant is too poor to pay for a lawyer himself. Justice isn't free.

The House Speaker apparently still complains that the system lacks sufficient "checks and balances to prevent an unelected judge from seizing control of the purse strings which elected lawmakers are charged with overseeing." No, again I think the blame goes to the Constitution. Sometimes democracy is an expensive proposition. (Where are the complaining legislators when it comes to the extraordinary resources spent prosecuting victimless crimes and silly political witch hunts?) Thankfully we don't have to leave everything to the prevailing winds of elected lawmakers.

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