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For immediate release: September 10, 2008
For further information contact: Winnie Comfort or Tammy Kendig

Pilot Program Speeds Criminal Appeals and
Gives Attorneys Courtroom Experience

Chief Justice Stuart Rabner has invited attorneys throughout the state to participate in a pilot program that will afford them valuable experience arguing appellate cases on behalf of indigent criminal defendants who are represented by the Office of the Public Defender.

Although the public defender will remain the attorney-of-record and will review the briefs before filing, volunteer attorneys will prepare and sign the appellate brief to the court. To provide even greater opportunity to gain appellate experience, the Appellate Division will grant all requests for oral argument submitted by private attorneys participating in the program. Costs for transcripts and copying will be paid for by the Office of the Public Defender.

"This program benefits everyone involved by expediting appeals and giving new attorneys an opportunity for professional development," said Chief Justice Rabner. "The Public Defender's Office, which provides excellent representation with limited resources, will receive critical support from those who volunteer for the program. At the same time, the Public Defender's Office will review all filings and ensure a full and competent defense."

Judge Edwin H. Stern, presiding judge for administration of the Appellate Division, added, "the Criminal Pro Bono Program will supplement the public defender staff resources with capable and committed attorneys at no cost to the taxpayer."

The Chief Justice sent letters to 103 law firms explaining the details of the pilot program and encouraging them to participate. The Judiciary also seeks participants from smaller firms as well as solo attorneys. Interested attorneys are asked to contact John Chacko, Clerk of the Appellate Division, at John.Chacko@njcourts.gov or by calling 609-292-6995.

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