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122 Yale L. J. 2626 (2012-2013)
Implicit Racial Bias in Public Defender Triage

handle is hein.journals/ylr122 and id is 2718 raw text is: L. SONG RICHARDSON & PHILLIP ATIBA GOFF
Implicit Racial Bias in Public Defender Triage
ABSTRACT. Despite the promise of Gideon, providing the guiding hand of counsel to
indigent defendants remains unmanageable, largely because the nation's public defender offices
are overworked and underfunded. Faced with overwhelming caseloads and inadequate resources,
public defenders must engage in triage, deciding which cases deserve attention and which do
not. Although scholars have recognized the need to develop standards for making these difficult
judgments, they have paid little attention to how implicit, i.e., unconscious, biases may affect
those decisions. There is reason to suspect that unconscious biases will influence public defender
decisionmaking due to generations of racial stereotypes specific to stigmatized groups and crime.
This Essay urges legal scholars and practitioners to consider how implicit biases may influence
the rationing of defense entitlements and suggests ways to safeguard against the effects of these
unconscious forces.
A U T H O R S. L. Song Richardson is Professor, University of Iowa College of Law; Yale Law
School, J.D.; Harvard College, A.B. Phillip Atiba Goff is Assistant Professor, University of
California, Los Angeles, Department of Psychology; Stanford University, Ph.D.; Harvard
College, A.B. We are grateful to all those who took the time to provide insightful comments,
critiques, and suggestions on this Essay, including John Bronsteen, Jack Chin, Stella Elias, Paul
Gowder, Cynthia Ho, Emily Hughes, Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Todd Pettys, Matt Sag, Lauren
Sudeall Lucas, Deborah Tuerkheimer, and faculty who attended the workshop at Loyola
University Chicago School of Law. Additionally, I thank the organizers of this conference, Nancy
Leong, Justin Marceau, and members of The Yale Law Journal, particularly Doug Lieb and Ida
Araya-Brumskine. Solomon Chouicha, Ernini Magalhies, and Taylor Whitten provided
excellent research assistance. Finally, Professor Richardson must acknowledge Kurt Kieffer for
countless conversations and insights. Any errors are our own.

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