Funding

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 National Legal Aid & Defender Association studied right to counsel services in the state of Tennessee in 1977. This is their report.

Author/Organization: National Legal Aid & Defender Association
Publication Date: 1977

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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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Ruling in Zarabia v. Bradshaw that “[i]t is impermissible for the presiding judge, in wholesale fashion, to transfer the public's constitutional obligation to pay the financial cost of indigent defense to the county's private lawyers,”  the Arizona Supreme Court reaffirmed that the principles expounded in State v. Joe U. Smith were the appropriate standard for gauging the effectiveness of a right to counsel system. 

Author/Organization: Arizona Supreme Court
Publication Date: 1996

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In finding that the lowest bid system for obtaining indigent defense counsel in Mohave County (Kingman) violated the defendant’s right to due process and right to counsel under Arizona and U.S. Constitutions, the state supreme court wrote: “The insidiousness of overburdening defense counsel is that it can result in concealing from the courts, and particularly the appellate courts, the nature and extent of damage that is done to defendants by their attorneys' excessive caseloads.”

Author/Organization: Arizona Supreme Court
Publication Date: 1984

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Update on New York state's struggles to meet Gideon's promise

BY Jon Mosher on Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 2:31 PM

On August 2, 2011, the Gotham Gazette provided a lengthy update on the state of New York’s ongoing struggle to provide a meaningful right to counsel for those otherwise unable to afford it.  The New York Civil Liberties Union class action lawsuit against the state, now in the discovery phase, continues to pressure policymakers to find a permanent resolution to the state’s severe, chronic challenges in meeting its 6th Amendment obligations.  Meanwhile, the newly established Office of Indigent Legal Services saw its initial $3 million budget cut in half, limiting its ability to aid county-based service providers in meeting foundational standards.  With progress slow, the Gazette provides a helpful round-up on where efforts currently stand, and where New York policymakers may look next in order to make larger strides towards constitutional compliance.

Gideon Alert: Connecticut backslides on right to counsel

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, July 27, 2011 at 9:46 AM
Like indigent defense systems throughout the country, Connecticut has recently had to let go forty-two public defender employees, including 23 lawyers, and is planning to eliminate 33 more positions, as reported in  the July 21, 2011 Boston Globe.  This is the result of what the Globe summarized as “a funding crisis for the nation’s judicial systems,” while government officials and state employee unions in Connecticut battle for power over the too few remaining dollars (see the June 30, 2011 New York Times).  The difference between Connecticut and other states where similar lay-offs are occurring is that Connecticut’s right to counsel system has been closer than most states to fulfilling the promises of the Sixth Amendment.

Settlement agreement as a result of a 1997 class action law suit by the ACLU against then-Connecticut Governor Rowland and the state public defender commission for failure to adequately fund the delivery of 6th Amendment right to counsel services. 

Author/Organization: State of Connecticut and ACLU
Publication Date: 08/03/1999

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Class action complaint against then-Connecticut Governor Rowland and the state public defender commission for failure to adequately fund the delivery of 6th Amendment right to counsel services. 

Author/Organization: American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Publication Date: 01/22/1997

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Interview with New York's director of indigent legal services

BY David Carroll on Friday, June 10, 2011 at 2:34 PM

The New York Law Journal sat down with current Director of the Office of Indigent Legal Service, Bill Leahy, to talk about the current state of the right to counsel in New York. Bill formerly headed up the Massachusetts’ Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) and uses the opportunity to compare and contrast public defense services in Massachusetts and New York. Worth the time to read.