As the executive director of the Bronx Defenders, a public defense and legal services organization, Robin Steinberg has spent her career demanding justice for the residents of the poorest Congressional district in the nation.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court case that requires states to provide attorneys for defendants who cannot pay for them. Gideon created the public defender system to ensure some balance between prosecution and defense, but as Steinberg explains, "Leveling the playing field is simply impossible."
She continues, "Defender offices in this country are under-resourced...everybody's under-resourced in the criminal justice system, so there's not really a leveling of the playing field."
According to Steinberg, the plea bargain system has also undermined the vision of equal justice the Supreme Court imagined 50 years ago "The criminal justice system in 2013 is not 'The Good Wife,' she explains. "Very little goes on in the trial world in the criminal justice system. In the state system...somewhere between two and five percent of cases get tried. Ninety-five percent or more get plea bargained."