Public Defense Counsel

Public Defense Counsel

 

in Soviet criminal procedure, a representative of a public organization or workers’ group participating in a judicial examination on behalf of such an organization and acting as defense counsel in court. A public defense counsel is an independent participant in a trial; during a court session he enjoys all the rights given by law to advocates— professional defense counsels. He may participate in a case regardless of whether the defendant has an advocate. The participation of a public defense counsel in a court session does not depend on the wishes of the defendant, who does not have a right to reject the public defense counsel as an advocate. However, unlike the professional defense counsel, the public defense counsel may refuse to defend the defendant, for example, if the organization assigning him was incorrectly informed regarding the gravity of the crime committed. Participation by a public defense counsel and a public accuser in a trial promotes a more thorough consideration of a case in court and increases the educative significance of trials. In addition, public participation is a way of further democratizing Soviet legal procedure.

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139) The increasing use of therapeutic and specialized courts, and in some jurisdictions mediation procedures, raises questions about whether public defense counsel can, and should, modify their adversarial roles.