A former 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge is stepping into a new role as chair of an effort designed to assess the current state of Indiana’s public defender system.
Judge John Tinder, who retired from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals two years ago, has accepted the Indiana Public Defender Commission’s invitation to lead the Indiana Task Force on Public Defense, a new group tasked with recommending improvements to the state’s public defender system. Tinder is stepping into the leadership role after U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney, who was initially selected to lead the task force, died last month.
Tinder’s legal career prior to ascending to the 7th Circuit bench included work as a public defender, as well as a state and federal prosecutor and judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, where he served alongside McKinney.
“Judge Larry McKinney was a dear friend and a great colleague of mine,” Tinder said in a statement. “His untimely death was a great loss to the legal community. I am privileged to carry on the work of this important task force.”
The commission created the task force last month after the Sixth Amendment Center released a report last year that was critical of Indiana’s system of public defense and questioned whether the state was meeting its constitutional obligation to provide counsel to indigent criminal defendants. Likewise, public defenders from around the state recently raised concerns to lawmakers about growing caseloads and offered suggestions for ways to infuse their offices with additional funds.
To address the issues found in its report, the Sixth Amendment Center called for greater accountability and oversight of the state’s public defense system and structural changes to ensure sufficient resources and compensation. Under Tinder’s leadership, the 16-person task force will study the current state of the public defender system and make its own recommendations for changes or improvements.
The task force will hold a series of meetings and public hearings throughout the state to elicit ideas from public defenders and other stakeholders. It is also accepting public comment, which can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or through the mail to Indiana Task Force on Public Defense, 309 West Washington St., Suite 501, Indianapolis, 46208. The task force’s next meeting will be from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 27 at the same address.