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Senate panel kills appellate defender bill

A bill that would have reinstated the office of appellate defender for Virginia went down to defeat in the Senate Courts Committee Monday.

The 8-to-5 vote to “pass by” Senate Bill 738 closely followed party lines. Republicans generally were opposed to the measure while Democrats favored restoring the position.

The appellate defender handled appeals of criminal defendants represented by public defenders. The position was created in 1996 and survived until it fell victim to the budget ax in 2009. Legislation to revive the post this year called for $275,000 for two attorneys and one support person.

The first state appellate defender, Sandy Sanders of Richmond, had urged support for restoration of the office, arguing a dedicated appellate legal team was needed to counter the appellate unit at the attorney general’s office.

“I feel bad I didn’t do more to get lawyers and attorney groups behind it,” he said.

One comment

  1. This is unfortunate and disappointing turn. The Public Defenders Office in Virginia is in my sincere belief is understaffed and underfunded and outmatched when it comes to the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office which has what appears to be unlimited resources. To take away an important element of the judicial system such as the Appellate Office is disappointing to say the least.

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