Easing H-1B Visa Cap for International Public Defenders: a Way to Resolve Current Shortage of Public Defenders

(Source) Although lack of funding, high caseloads, and shortage of attorneys are nothing new in America’s public defense system, the pandemic has worsened the problems to a new level.  As many courts in New England began to reopen after a long period of closure due to the pandemic, many public defenders were facing a large number of stacked up cases whose proceedings were suspended during court closure.  As a result, public defenders now bear much heavier workloads and many of them simply decided to leave the office or stop taking new cases due to the unbearable caseloads, leaving their co-workers even more work.  Such heavy workloads also endanger their clients’ deserved quality defense.  Each criminal case requires hours of legal research, investigation, and client correspondence.  A public defender working on too many cases cannot invest enough time in each case, and would therefore fail to provide quality defense for their clients.  At the same time, international students interested in becoming public defenders are discouraged from doing so due to difficulties obtaining a working visa in the US.  But there exists one solution to both problems: granting non-citizen public defenders’ exemption from the H-1B visa cap.  This solution may incentivize international [read more]