Conflicts of Interest

Gideon Alert: Undue prosecutorial influence on the 6th Amendment in Utah

BY David Carroll on Friday, August 26, 2011 at 11:47 AM

In Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981), the United States Supreme Court found that states have a “constitutional obligation to respect the professional independence of the public defenders whom it engages,” noting that a “public defender is not amenable to administrative direction in the same sense as other state employees”. In fact, the Court noted, a “defense lawyer best serves the public not by acting on the State's behalf or in concert with it, but rather by advancing the undivided interests of the client.” A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah (ACLU-Utah) finds that the state of Utah fails to uphold this constitutional obligation.  In “most” of the nine counties studied by the ACLU-Utah, the local prosecutor “routinely” is responsible for hand-selecting opposing defense counsel and often helps to negotiate the terms of defender contracts. Worse, the report highlights that in several counties defense attorneys must request trial-related expenses from the county attorneys.  

Gideon Alert: Tennessee Supreme Court proposes rule change allowing flat-fee contracting

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 4:11 PM

“When it comes to balancing the scales of justice for the poor with the expense, there simply are no easy answers,” concludes the Knoxville News Sentinel on August 21, 2011 in part of an in-depth, three-part series. The Tennessee Supreme Court proposed a new rule change that attempts to find an easy answer to controlling indigent defense costs by allowing flat-fee contracting for right to counsel services, but the Court has neglected to provide institutional safeguards that would protect the adequacy of representation.  If implemented, this move will buck the trend of other state Supreme Courts, in places like Iowa and Washington, that have recently banned these types of low-bid contracts because they create a direct financial conflict of interest between the attorney and each client.  Tennessee’s high court is accepting public comment on their proposed rule until September 1, 2011.

The AOC was tasked by the Tennessee legislature with "conducting a study of the rising costs of indigent defense in the state and to develop a plan to reduce such costs. Such study shall examine, at a minimum, eligibility requirements, fee rates including sliding scale options, limits, verification processes, and utilization by judicial districts." This is the AOC's report from that study.

Author/Organization: Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts
Publication Date: 01/15/2011

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A memo from the Washoe County District Attorney and County Manager's Office to the County Commission in advance of its August 9, 2011 meeting.  The memo recommends the County Commission approve the proposed contract for public defense services with Washoe Legal Services. Under the contract, the civil legal aid office would provide representation for an annual flat fee to indigent criminal defendants in the County's early case resolution (ECR) program.

Author/Organization: Washoe County District Attorney & County Manager's Office
Publication Date: 07/28/2011

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Gideon Alert: Nevada DA seeks way around court-ordered performance guidelines

BY David Carroll on Monday, August 8, 2011 at 12:44 PM

On August 9th, 2011, the Washoe County (Reno) District Attorney will ask the County Board to contract with Washoe Legal Services (WLS) to provide representation to criminal defendants in a reinstituted early case resolution (ECR) program.  The proposed contract is for WLS to handle every ECR case for a single flat fee of $80,000 with no extra funds set aside for investigations.