RALEIGH – North Carolina’s chief public defenders and state defenders, who represent indigent, poor persons, and persons of color, adopted a resolution on June 5 denouncing the murder of George Floyd and addressing disproportionate policing, justice and health system inequities, and structural racism.
“We publicly denounce the egregious actions or inactions of the police officers in Minneapolis that resulted in the death of George Floyd,” the chief public defenders and state defenders state in the resolution. “We commit to dismantling structural and institutional racism in policing, our justice system, and institutions and agencies throughout North Carolina.”
About Indigent Defense Services
In August 2000, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Indigent Defense Services Act of 2000 (“IDS Act”), which created the Office of Indigent Defense Services (“IDS Office”) and its 13-member governing body, the Commission on Indigent Defense Services (“IDS Commission”). On July 1, 2001, IDS assumed a number of responsibilities, including 1) overseeing the provision of legal representation to indigent defendants and others entitled to counsel under North Carolina law; 2) developing training, qualification, and performance standards to govern the provision of legal services to indigent persons; 3) determining the most appropriate methods of delivering legal services to indigent persons in each judicial district, and 4) providing services in the most cost-effective manner possible.
The North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS) and public defender offices commemorate 50 years of public defender offices in 2020. IDS is the state agency that supports legal representation for anyone unable to afford an attorney in court cases where there is a constitutional or statutory right to counsel, particularly where there is a possibility of incarceration. Public defender offices are staffed by lawyers, investigators, and administrative assistants who only handle cases assigned by judges.
The first public defender office opened in January 1970 in Guilford County. Cumberland and Hoke counties opened offices in the summer that same year. The late Wally Harrelson was the first public defender in North Carolina and served Guilford County for 40 years. Today, there are 17 public defender offices in North Carolina, serving 35 counties. The offices of the Appellate Defender, Capital Defender, Juvenile Defender, Parent Defender, and Special Counsel offer their services statewide.