“The disparity in state funding for public defense in Shelby and Davidson counties limits our ability to meet constitutional and ethical obligations to our clients.”
– C. Dawn Deaner and Stephen C. Bush, Chief Public Defenders of Davidson and Shelby counties
“Much has been said recently about a 20-year recurring state budget miscalculation that has resulted in a multimillion-dollar funding shortage for public defense in Davidson and Shelby counties. While this is accurate, we are realists. We know state taxpayers can’t afford to pay the entire shortage. That’s why we sought a correction of the funding error for this fiscal year. We think a $5 million annual correction for public defense in Tennessee’s two largest urban centers would set things right for an obligation that is at the very core of our justice system — the right to competent counsel.”
Read the rest of this guest column published in the Commercial Appeal: May 5, 2012
Do the Numbers: Charts and video about the funding deficit
Since legislation controlling public defender funding was passed in 1992, the amount received by Davidson and Shelby counties has not kept pace with funding for the District Public Defender Conference as required by the law. Despite the requirement of funding parity to the two largest counties in the state, funding to the District Public Defender Conference has increased 200% since 1993 while increasing less than 50 percent to the two counties.
Consequently, the taxpayers of Shelby County have paid an increasing share of the costs for the public defender’s office.