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Oregon U.S. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici has introduced legislation to support public defenders and address the public defense shortage.

The Ensuring Quality Access to Legal (EQUAL) Defense Act

The legislation would improve access to counsel by providing $250 million in funding for public defense grants.

The Ensuring Quality Access to Legal (EQUAL) Defense Act would improve access to counsel by providing $250 million in funding for public defense grants. The bill will also help to address workload limits, establish pay parity between public defenders and prosecutors within five years, and more.

Currently, public defenders across the country are overwhelmed with massive caseloads. Many lack access to adequate resources, technology, and training programs, and they are not paid commensurate with their abilities and responsibilities. The American Bar Association estimates that Oregon’s public defense system alone is short nearly 1,300 attorneys.

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