Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Dr. John Lombardini

Committee Members

Dr. Jackson Sasser

Dr. Adam Gershowitz


Although there exists a deep literature base around public defense, the vast majority of this literature is purely quantitative and lacks any thorough examination of the impact inequalities in criminal defense can have on our basic societal structure. Through the use of a Rawlsian theoretical framework, this article demonstrates that the impact of economic inequality on criminal justice is problematic, not only for financial and practical reasons as have been offered by previous scholars, but also for the imposition of the rule of law and justice as regularity. In this way, I demonstrate that these inequalities create very tangible impacts of society, hindering liberty and social cooperation. To do so, I first outline what Rawls’ refers to as the principle of ‘justice as fairness’ and then demonstrate how advancing the rule of law is the best method by which to achieve justice as regularity. Once the implications of the injustices in our public defense system have been illustrated, I examine the most significant ways in which income inequality impacts criminal defense before offering a series of possible reforms to address these injustices. In addressing these issues using theory rather than pure empirics, this analysis aims to better inform policy making by deepening our understanding of the gravity of these issues.

Included in

Legal Theory Commons