NYTimes editorial supports Indiana sentencing reforms

BY Jon Mosher on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 11:25 AM

Last week, we noted an important effort to keep non-violent offenders out of Indiana's prisons system as a solution to the state's budget woes. On Monday, the New York Times published an editorial supporting those reforms, and praised Gov. Mitch Daniels' leadership in this effort. Well worth the read.

MN criminal justice policymakers brace for major cuts as state faces $6.2B deficit

BY Jon Mosher on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 11:01 AM

Today's Star-Tribune has an important story chronicling the impact Minnesota’s $6.2 billion deficit has had upon the state’s justice system.  Cuts in funding in recent years continue to strain the state’s already beleaguered public defender system.  Stakeholders are bracing themselves for even more budget cuts this coming year.  

"I cannot overestimate the importance of this issue," said Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea. "The success of our democracy depends on a vibrant, fully functioning justice system ... We can't put the people in prison that we're afraid of if we don't have an adequately funded justice system."

TX County Looks to Cut Indigent Defense Costs

BY Jon Mosher on Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 1:05 PM

Like so many counties across the nation, Montgomery County, Texas, is looking to cut its expenses. According to the Conroe Courier, a member of the local judiciary suggests looking to indigent defense to cut costs.  The county currently operates under an assigned counsel model for adult criminal cases, with judges approving attorney vouchers. Juvenile cases are handled under contract with three private attorneys at a $175,000 flat annual fee.

Louisiana Public Defender Board sues Orleans Parish judges

BY Jon Mosher on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 at 11:37 AM

The Courthouse News Service reports that the Louisiana Public Defender Board has filed a law suit against 23 Orleans Parish (New Orleans) judges for their failure "to collect a $35 fee from criminal defendants who appear before them. The fee, which is mandatory, helps fund public defenders offices, and the judges' refusal to collect it has resulted in 'critical underfunding' of the New Orleans Public Defender's Office, according to the complaint."

New York Court certifies class in NYCLU lawsuit

BY David Carroll on Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 12:00 AM

On May 6, 2010, we reported that New York’s Highest Court allowed the NYCLU lawsuit to proceed.  Two months later a trial court judge ruled that the class could not be certified, making the lawsuit potentially more difficult to pursue.  On January 6, 2011, an appellate court overturned that decision and certified the class, noting “denial of class certification gives rise to the possibility of multiple lawsuits involving duplicative claims of those asserted in this action and inconsistent rulings by various courts in the state.”  The ruling paves the way for the case to proceed to trial, as an appeal to the Court of Appeals is viewed as highly unlikely.

Editorial calls for solutions to Oklahoma's right to counsel system

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, December 30, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The editors at The Oklahoman, lamenting the state's indigent defense system "gasping under the weight of too many cases, too few attorneys and too little funding," have called for solutions "that are smart, not just tough, on crime."

Gideon Alert: Iowa S.Ct. finds rigid flat-fee contracts “substantially undermine” right to counsel

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 3:30 PM

The Iowa Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Simmons v. State Public Defender, No. 07-0870 (Iowa Nov. 24, 2010), finding that a rigid fee cap of $1,500 per appellate case would “substantially undermine the right of indigents to effective assistance of counsel.”  The Court explained that “inadequate compensation will restrict the pool of attorneys willing to represent indigent defendants” and that “the low level of compensation threatens the quality of indigent representation because of the perverse economic incentives introduced into the criminal justice system. … Low compensation pits a lawyer’s economic interest … against the interest of the client.”  Reasoning that the fee caps at issue in the case would have a “profound chilling effect” on the right to counsel and that the legislature intended to uphold the right to counsel, the Court held that Iowa rules imposing a hard-fee cap are unenforceable.

Gideon Alert: Policies of prosecutor and judges close doors of Val Verde County (Del Rio, Texas) public defender

BY David Carroll on Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 6:29 PM

On October 10, 2010, the San Antonio News ran a feature article on the closing of Texas’ first regional public defender office.  The office served Val Verde, Kinney, Terrell, and Edwards counties, and had opened in 2006 as a division of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aide, Inc. (TRLA). 

Gideon Alert: MA Prosecutors Argue for Parity with Public Defense Providers

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 12:00 AM

On October 13, 2010, nine of the eleven Massachusetts elected District Attorneys held a press conference in the state legislature to alert policy-makers to what they call an imbalance in criminal justice funding.  Arguing that the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) receives $

Gideon Alert: DOJ data confirms existence of right to counsel workload crisis in the United States

BY David Carroll on Friday, September 17, 2010 at 10:56 AM

On September 16, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released additional results from its 2007 public defender survey in two separate reports.  These reports on state public defender programs and county-based public defender programs detail the existence of serious deficiencies in the way states and counties deliver Sixth Amendment right to counsel services, most notably in the excessive caseloads public defenders are forced to carry.