Public Defense Reform

On July 1, 2008, the Colorado State Court Administrator and the State Public Defender jointly requested a formal opinion from the state Attorney General on the constitutionality of the law requiring misdemeanor defendants to delay appointment of counsel until after speaking with a prosecutor about a plea deal.  Attorney General response included.

Author/Organization: Colorado State Court Administrator and the State Public Defender
Publication Date: 07/01/2008

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On December 2, 2010 the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition filed a federal lawsuit against Governor Bill Ritter challenging the constituionality of a law requiring misdemeanor defendants to delay appointment of counsel until after they have spoken to a prosecutor about a plea deal.

Author/Organization: Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition
Publication Date: 12/02/2010

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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Gideon Alert: As Michigan Supreme Court again reinstates ACLU Duncan lawsuit, the Race to the Bottom continues in Chippewa and Bay counties

BY David Carroll on Thursday, December 2, 2010 at 1:11 PM
On April 30, 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ordered the American Civil Liberties Union class action lawsuit in Duncan v. Michigan to move forward, only to reverse itself on July 16, 2010 in a 4-3 order issued on reconsideration.  By granting summary judgment in favor of the Governor and State of Michigan at that time, most people (including this author) assumed the court had put an end to any opportunity for the plaintiffs to prove they are being denied the effective right to counsel as a result of Michigan’s inadequate and ineffective system of public defense.  (For more information on the Duncan case and orders, see our earlier Gideon Alerts here and here.)  However, on November 30, 2010, the Court issued a third order, reversing itself yet again with another 4-3 vote, that reinstates the original unanimous April 30th order. 

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: The “Indiana Model” creates unequal representation

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Indiana has a strong home-rule tradition, favoring local autonomy over state control in many governmental facets. Indigent defense in the state is organized at the county level, and historically representation has been provided most typically by part-time public defenders operating under contract.

Gideon Alert: Saddling poor defendants with high court-imposed debt is bad public policy

BY David Carroll on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 5:11 PM

On October 14th, 2010, the USA Today editorialized that the practice of imposing high court-ordered debts on the backs of clients as part of sentencing in criminal cases –- including forcing indigent defendants to pay for the cost of their appointed attorneys -– actually heightens the chance that people may re-offend and is unsound public policy.

Our Constitution is the founding contract of our collective interests, establishing the core tenets of a free society and creating a government whose authority and power is vested upon it by its citizens.  Of all the powers we give over to our government under this unique social contract, the authority to punish us for our crimes is the greatest and most fearsome.  We entrust to our government the administration of our judicial systems in exchange for its promise to guarantee equal justice before the law — assuring victims, the accused and the general public that resulting verdicts are fair, correct, swift and final.

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Publication Date: 2010

An adequate public defense program must have binding workload standards for the system to function.  In fact, if there were a single criterion by which it was possible to evaluate the overall health of a jurisdiction’s public defense system, the existence and enforcement of strict workload controls might well be the most important benchmark of an effective system.  This is because public defenders do not generate their own work.

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Publication Date: 2010

On January 27, 2010, NLADA publicly released its report, The Guarantee of Counsel: Advocacy & Due Process in Idaho’s Trial Courts.  The report finds that the state of Idaho fails to provide the level of representation required by our Constitution for those who cannot afford counsel in its criminal and juvenile courts.  Idaho has sewn a patchwork quilt of under-funded, inconsistent systems that vary greatly in defining who qualifies for services and in the level of competency of the services rendered.  While there are some admirable qualities in some of the county indigent defense services, NLADA finds that none of the public defense systems in the sample counties are constitutionally adequate.

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Publication Date: 2010

On March 25, 1931, a fight broke out between a group of poor white and black youths aboard a freight train bound for Memphis, Tennessee via Huntsville, Alabama.   Outnumbered, all but one of the white young men was thrown off the train a short distance over the Alabama line, where they promptly alerted local law enforcement.

Author/Organization:
Publication Date: 2010