Public Defense Reform

Gideon Alert: Alabama creates statewide indigent defense system

BY David Carroll on Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 9:00 AM

On June 9, 2011, Alabama joined the majority of states in the country that have state-administered right to counsel systems. While Alabama already funds indigent defense at the state level, the legislation (SB 440) creates centralized oversight of right to counsel services, requires the promulgation of standards, and seeks to expand the number of staffed public defender offices. The bill is a compromise reach by a conference committee.  An earlier version of the bill was passed by the Senate (24-3) on May 25 and would have unified the state's divergent county-based right to counsel systems, but only a substitute bill passed in the House. The conference bill passed the Senate unanimously (32-0) and the House voted the measure through on an overwhelmingly bi-partisan basis (97-4-1). Governor Bentley is expected to sign the conference committee version of the bill into law, as he is largely viewed as the leader behind the movement to bring accountability to the delivery of right to counsel services.

Pennsylvania’s continuing struggles to meet Gideon’s promise

BY David Carroll on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Though the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requires each of its counties to establish a public defender office, Pennsylvania remains one of only two states that have elected to delegate its entire right to counsel financial obligation under Gideon v. Wainwright and its progeny to its counties (Utah is the other).  Leaving counties responsible for administering and funding their criminal justice systems, and in particular indigent defense services, can put an undue hardship on local jurisdictions to ensure adequate representation of poor people accused with crimes.  Nationally, counties with fewer sources of revenue may have to dedicate a far greater portion of their limited budget to defender services than would counties in better economic standing. 

Gideon Alert: Budget deal threatens to gut New York indigent defense efforts before they begin

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 12:31 PM

In his February 15, 2011 State of the Judicary speech, New York's Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman quoted a Commission finding that "New York's indigent defense system is severely dysfunctional and structurally incapable of providing poor defendants with effective legal representation."  "Fortunately," he continued, "there is finally cause for optimism thanks to the Legislature's historic creation last June of an Indigent Legal Services Board and a State Office of Indigent Legal Services, the ILS Office."  This week, a budget deal was struck slashing in half the budget for that new office, as reported in a March 28, 2011 press release from the Justice Fund and on March 29 by the North Country Gazette.  The budget compromise was reached after a Senate proposal to eliminate the newly formed office altogether.  (The Senate proposal was an earlier iteration -- S2807-B -- of the bill that is now S2807-C.)

By this letter, the ACCD called upon Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to collaborate toward the accomplishment of three major goals: (1) creation of a permanent federal structure that protects and supports the right to counsel; (2) funding of necessary federal resources to support quality public defender services; and (3) provision of high-quality federally funded training for public defense managers, leaders and practitioners. 

Author/Organization: American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD)
Publication Date: 01/15/2010

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On August 24, 2007, the American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD) approved a resolution endorsing a report of the ACCD's Caseload Task Force, reaffirming the validity of public defender caseload limit recommendations first set out in 1973 by the National Advisory Commission (NAC) on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. 

By this letter, the ACCD conveyed its policy positions to the American Bar Association, Standing Committee on Legal Aid & Indigent Defense (ABA-SCLAID).

Author/Organization: American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD)
Publication Date: 02/08/2008

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United States Attorney General Eric Holder met with the American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD) at their ACCD Spring Conference in 2009.  This is the transcript of his prepared remarks at that conference.

Author/Organization: Department of Justice (DOJ)
Publication Date: 06/24/2009

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The state appellate court granted class action status to the New York Civil Liberties Union’s landmark lawsuit, Hurrell-Harring et al v. State of New York, charging New York State with failing its constitutional duty to provide effective counsel to poor New Yorkers accused of crimes. The unanimous ruling by the Appellate Division, Third Department reverses a lower court’s decision to deny the NYCLU’s motion for class certification.

Author/Organization: State of New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division Third Judicial Department
Publication Date: 01/06/2011

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Prominent conservatives take up the call of criminal justice reform

BY Jon Mosher on Friday, January 7, 2011 at 12:00 AM

“The criminal justice system is broken, and conservatives must lead the way in fixing it,” wrote former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in a January 7, 2011 Washington Post Op-Ed on behalf of other prominent conservatives making up the Right on Crime Campaign. Given the economic landscape of most states, Gingrich argues that there is an urgent need to address the “astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential.”  Knowing that “there are more humane, effective alternatives,” the Right on Crime Campaign demands that “it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.” 

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.

Gideon Alert: Lawsuit challenges Colorado law refusing appointment of counsel until after clients meet with DA

BY David Carroll on Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 12:31 PM

Colorado is the only state in the country that statutorily requires indigent defendants in misdemeanor cases to consult with prosecutors about plea deals before they can receive their constitutional right to counsel.  Colo. Rev. Stat. § 16-7-301(4) states that, in misdemeanor cases, the “application for appointment of counsel and the payment of the application fee shall be deferred until after the prosecuting attorney has spoken with the defendant.”  The prosecutor is statutorily obligated “to tell the defendant any offer that can be made based on the facts as known by the prosecuting attorney at that time.”