Funding

Missouri’s chronic right to counsel problems revisited

BY Jon Mosher on Wednesday, February 9, 2011 at 1:15 PM

In a five-part spotlight series published on February 5, 2011, the Springfield News-Leader has focused once more on the state of Missouri’s chronic failure to provide a meaningful right to counsel as required under the Constitution.  Like all states, Missouri must provide counsel at public expense to those facing criminal charges who cannot otherwise afford to hire their own attorney.  The state intends for all right to counsel services to be provided to all indigent defendants through its statewide public defender system, but there are more people who require the public defender system’s services than it is set up to provide for.  Instead, the Office of the Missouri Public Defender has only enough resources to provide constitutionally effective representation to a percentage of those who are entitled to public representation.  

The Missouri Public Defender Commission's budget is meant to provide attorneys for all indigent criminal defendants, but the total number of people needing services has grown too large. So, while every indigent defendant must receive an attorney, the overarching question before the Pratte Court was whether the Commission or the judges are responsible for deciding which clients will receive services through the budget of the Public Defender Commission and which clients will have to receive services through some other budget. "When current state funding is inadequate to provide the effective representation to all of Missouri's indigent defendants that the United States and Missouri constitutions require, the commission's rules present an approach to dealing with the situation."

Author/Organization: Supreme Court of Missouri
Publication Date: 12/08/2009

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Tom Green County, Texas considers regional defender model

BY Jon Mosher on Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:20 PM

As noted in our Gideon Alert on January 26, the National Association of Counties recommended the federal government fund pilot public defender programs to serve multi-county jurisdictions in rural areas.  The San Angelo Standard-Times reports that Tom Green County, Texas is considering such a regional model using grant funds from the state’s Task Force on Indigent Defense.  NLADA applauds the county’s leadership for considering creative solutions to their local right to counsel dilemma.

Addressing representatives of U.S. county governments, David Carroll stated: "Prudent use of taxpayer dollars requires that we all work together to get state policy-makers to reduce the need for public defense attorneys in the first place by removing non-violent, low level felonies and misdemeanors from the formal justice system through diversion, mediation and/or reclassification of crimes to non-jailable infractions where it is safe, reasonable and prudent to do so.  It is only through reducing our dependence on public defense that we will ever be able to get states to relieve counties of this financial burden once and for all."

Author/Organization: National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA)
Publication Date: 01/20/2011

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Gideon Alert: Michigan Bar task force recommends how to deliver justice in the face of diminishing returns

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 6:16 PM

“By almost every measure, indigent criminal defense as a whole in Michigan falls far short of accepted standards, undermining the quality of justice, jeopardizing public safety, and creating large and avoidable costs.  Michigan’s public defense system has fallen far short of acceptable standards for decades and is worsening … The cost of properly fixing the system is great; the cost of not fixing it is greater.” This is the conclusion reached about indigent defense services in the State Bar of Michigan’s “Judicial Crossroads Task Force” report Delivering Justice in the Face of Diminishing Returns, released January 26, 2011.  The report summarizes the conclusions of a Bar-convened task force composed of twenty-nine leaders of the Bar, business, civic and political communities, including 14 judges.

Debate on Massachusetts public defense proposal continues

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 5:16 PM

The discussion about Massachusetts Gov. Patrick's proposed changes to the state's public defender system continues. Today, David Carroll, NLADA research director and author of Gideon Alerts, appeared on WBUR's Radio Boston show to provide national context to the discussion (stream online here).

More Coloradoans requiring public defense attorneys

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 3:22 PM

The Denver Post reports that, even as the number of criminal prosecutions across the state has decreased, the Colorado State Public Defender is facing a record-high number of clients to defend.  This paradox, likely common throughout the nation, has a simple explanation.  The downturn in the economy has caused many people to lose their jobs, which in turn means that more people are falling into poverty.  When these people are cited or arrested for alleged violations of the law, increasingly larger percentages of them qualify for public representation.  So, even as fewer people overall are being prosecuted, more and more of them are financially incapable of hiring a private attorney.

Gideon Alert: National Association of Counties calls for improved public defense services

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 1:42 PM

On January 19, 2011, the National Association of Counties (NACo) called upon the United States Department of Justice to assist rural counties in overcoming systemic deficiencies that prevent them from meeting the states’ obligation to provide constitutionally-mandated indigent defense services.  Founded in 1935, NACo is the only national organization that represents county governments in the United States and provides essential services to America’s 3,068 counties.  In their press release, NACo recommends funding pilot public defender programs to serve multi-county jurisdictions, while reminding counties of NACo’s policy that public defenders be active participants in all criminal justice planning at the local level.

In October 2008, the Rural Sub-Committee of the Nevada Supreme Court Task Force on Indigent Defense formally filed this report with the Nevada Supreme Court.  The report concludes that the members of the rural sub-committee (judges, defense attorneys, county managers, and others) “firmly and unanimously believes that it the responsibility of the State of Nevada to fully fund indigent defense throughout the state, in accordance with Gideon, in order to ensure that each citizen of Nevada, regardless of where they live, is afforded the full equal protection of the law when accessed of a crime.

Author/Organization: Nevada Supreme Court Indigent Defense Commission Rural Sub-Committee
Publication Date: 10/2008

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The inadequacy of indigent defense systems in Nevada became a primary focus of the Nevada Supreme Court Task Force for the Study of Racial and Economic Bias in the Justice System (Task Force). In 1997, the Task Force issued a report that found there was inadequate financial support of public defender offices throughout the state to ensure quality representation. The Task Force’s Implementation Committee received technical assistance under a joint grant from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and the ABA’s Bar Information Program to make recommendations for sustainable improvement to indigent defense services. The DOJ/ABA report concluded, among other things, that: (1) indigent defendants throughout the state of Nevada are not afforded equal justice; (2) the state indigent defense system is in crisis; and (3) workload issues among public defenders have resulted in expedited procedures that jeopardize defendants’ rights.

Author/Organization: The Spangenberg Group
Publication Date: 12/2000

Items contained in the NLADA Library do not and are not meant to constitute advice of any kind. Content in the NLADA Library is contributed by users. If you believe this material infringes your or any other person’s copyright or if you feel that the material is inappropriate, please report this to NLADA Staff by clicking below.

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