JSERI Blog Archives

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

U.S. Government Accountability Office Issues Report on Federal Funding for Indigent Defense

On May 9, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report assessing the ways in which the federal government has provided funding and other federal support to the states for indigent defense for the last seven years.

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6:22 PM
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gideon Alert: Prof. Lefstein points way to securing reasonable caseloads

“Our nation’s public defense systems in state courts, with few exceptions, should be a source of great embarrassment for all of us: judges, bar associations, lawyers, public officials, and all other citizens,” states former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and former United States District Court Judge, William Sessions, in the foreword to Professor Norm Lefstein’s new book, Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense. The source of that embarrassment is the simple fact that, across much of the country, indigent defendants count themselves among one of several hundred who are all vying for the attention of a single lawyer -- a lawyer who lacks the time, resources, and independence to adequately advocate on their behalf.  States neglect to provide any type of meaningful supervision or accountability for the representation provided by these overworked public defense lawyers.  And, far too often these public attorneys are beholden to the trial judge or the county administration for their pay check, creating a direct conflict between the lawyer’s own personal financial well-being and his ethical duty to advocate solely on behalf of his client.  As Judge Sessions notes, “[t]his undisputed and sad state of affairs undermines, indeed vitiates, respect for the rule of law both here at home and abroad and makes a statement to the world about who we are as a people and a society, a statement that we must no longer tolerate.”

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7:12 PM
Monday, December 12, 2011

Gideon Alert: State-sanctioned commission finds Pennsylvania defaulting on the Sixth Amendment

On December 8, 2011, Pennsylvania’s Joint State Government Commission issued its report, A Constitutional Default: Services to Indigent Criminal Defendants in Pennsylvania, concluding that public defense providers labor “under an obsolete, purely localized system,” and that the structure of services “impedes efforts to represent clients effectively.” Echoing the 2003 report of the Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Judicial System, the new report states:

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3:46 PM
Monday, November 21, 2011

Gideon Alert: Prosecutorial interference in Utah

On November 15, 2011, the Emery County Progress reported that the county attorney -- the same office that prosecutes crimes in the county -- not only plays a major role in selecting opposing counsel, but also controls the budget of the local indigent defense system.  Though this column has reported on undue prosecutorial interference in Utah before (click here to read about Utah district attorneys involved in the selection and oversight of public defenders), this is the first documented instance in which there is a direct financial conflict of interest between the two adversarial components of the court system.  

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4:58 PM
Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Underrepresentation in Kentucky misdemeanor courts

“An inevitable consequence of volume that large is the almost total preoccupation in such a court with the movement of cases.  The calendar is long, speed often is substituted for care, and casually arranged out-of-court compromise too often is substituted for adjudication.  Inadequate attention tends to be given to the individual defendant, whether, in protecting his rights, sifting the facts at trial, deciding the social risk he presents, or determining how to deal with him after conviction.  The frequent result is futility and failure.” [Argersinger v. Hamlin, 407 U.S. 25 (1972), affording the right to counsel to every case with a potential jail sentence.]

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4:34 PM
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Utah Court finds partially indigent have right to public funds for their defense

On October 17, 2011 the Salt Lake Tribune highlighted the potential impact of a recent Utah Supreme Court decision on county indigent defense budgets. In State v. Parduhn, the Court held: “local governments are statutorily required to provide an indigent defendant with funding for a necessary defense resource, even when the defendant is represented by private counsel.” 

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12:21 PM
Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gideon Alert: Michigan takes first steps to fulfilling Gideon’s promise

On October 13, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued Executive Order No. 2011-12 establishing an Indigent Defense Advisory Commission (Commission).  The Commission is charged to make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature for statewide “improvements to the system of providing legal representation for indigent criminal defendants.”  The recommendations from the 14-member, bi-partisan Commission must ensure that: “indigent defense is free from undue political interference and conflicts of interest;” “the right to counsel is delivered by effective counsel at each critical stage of the proceedings in a manner that is consistent throughout the state;” and, “government-funded criminal defense lawyers are sufficiently trained and supervised, appropriately qualified, and adequately compensated.”  The Commission must meet their charge in a manner that is fiscally responsible and cost-effective, while being “responsive to jurisdictional variances and local community needs.” Findings and recommendations are due to the Legislature and Governor no later than July 15, 2012.

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4:12 PM
Monday, August 29, 2011

Two Utah papers react to ACLU-Utah report

In response to the ACLU of Utah's recent report on the state's failure to meet its constitutional right to counsel oblications, two Utah newspapers published editorials expressing appropriate shock and outrage.  "One thing that any self-respecting bunch of Don’t Tread On Me Utahns should be concerned about is the prospect of being arrested, cuffed and dragged into court without so much as a marginally competent attorney on hand to defend you," the Salt Lake Tribune wrote on August 28, 2011.  

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10:50 AM
Friday, August 26, 2011

Gideon Alert: Undue prosecutorial influence on the 6th Amendment in Utah

In Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981), the United States Supreme Court found that states have a “constitutional obligation to respect the professional independence of the public defenders whom it engages,” noting that a “public defender is not amenable to administrative direction in the same sense as other state employees”. In fact, the Court noted, a “defense lawyer best serves the public not by acting on the State's behalf or in concert with it, but rather by advancing the undivided interests of the client.” A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah (ACLU-Utah) finds that the state of Utah fails to uphold this constitutional obligation.  In “most” of the nine counties studied by the ACLU-Utah, the local prosecutor “routinely” is responsible for hand-selecting opposing defense counsel and often helps to negotiate the terms of defender contracts. Worse, the report highlights that in several counties defense attorneys must request trial-related expenses from the county attorneys.  

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11:47 AM
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gideon Alert: Tennessee Supreme Court proposes rule change allowing flat-fee contracting

“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.

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4:11 PM
Monday, August 8, 2011

Gideon Alert: Nevada DA seeks way around court-ordered performance guidelines

On August 9th, 2011, the Washoe County (Reno) District Attorney will ask the County Board to contract with Washoe Legal Services (WLS) to provide representation to criminal defendants in a reinstituted early case resolution (ECR) program.  The proposed contract is for WLS to handle every ECR case for a single flat fee of $80,000 with no extra funds set aside for investigations.   

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12:44 PM
Friday, August 5, 2011

AG asks Black Journalists to keep focusing on indigent defense deficiencies

Addressing the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, on August 4, 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder highlighted the Department of Justice’s recent successes, while also calling upon reporters to keep looking at deficiencies in the delivery of right to counsel services.  

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10:53 AM
Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gideon Alert: NACDL report exposes Florida’s “no counsel” courts

“Supreme Court Justices rarely consider appeals of misdemeanor convictions.  Nearly a half-million misdemeanor cases are filed in Florida’s county courts every year, and the vast majority of those cases are resolved by a plea of guilty, often in a matter of minutes.  Advice of rights by the courts and the assistance of lawyers for the defendants, whether they can afford them or not, are exceptions, not the rule.  It is as if our criminal and traffic courts operate as 'constitution-free zones,' outside the law.” -- Gerald Kogan, former Florida Chief Justice

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3:16 PM
Tuesday, August 2, 2011

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

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.

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2:31 PM
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Justice Policy Institute releases report on the Right to Counsel

The Justice Policy Institute has released a report linking states' struggles to provide effective right to counsel services with excessive corrections costs.  The report, System Overload: The Costs of Under-Resourcing Public Defense, highlights the impact of overwhelmed public defense systems and "how the busting-at-the-seams systems affect state and county budgets, the lives of those behind bars, the impact on their families, and the challenges of re-entering communities after serving time."

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2:27 PM
Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gideon Alert: Connecticut backslides on right to counsel

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.
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9:46 AM
Friday, June 10, 2011

Gideon Alert: Mississippi takes first step toward unified statewide system

The Mississippi Office of State Public Defender was created earlier this session with the passage of SB 2563 consolidating the existing Office of Indigent Appeals and the Office of Capital Defense Counsel. The new office is tasked with providing “training and services to public defenders practicing in all state, county and municipal courts” and making recommendations for a future unified, statewide trial-level system. On June 9, 2011, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour announced the appointment of Ms. Leslie Lee as the first State Public Defender.

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2:55 PM
Friday, June 10, 2011

Interview with New York's director of indigent legal services

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.

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2:34 PM
Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gideon Alert: Alabama creates statewide indigent defense system

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.

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9:00 AM
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gideon Alert: North Carolina attorneys leave appointed counsel panels in droves

On May 4, 2011, the House side of North Carolina’s General Assembly passed a budget bill (HB 200) that cuts annual funding for the statewide Indigent Defense Services (IDS) by roughly $11 million, or more than 9% of their previous year’s budget.  The threatened cut is especially drastic because, based on projected need for the remainder of this fiscal year, IDS expects to be nearly $12.8 million short.  In the past, the legislature would make a one-time appropriation to IDS to make up for any end-of-the-year shortfall, but the current legislative leadership has made it clear that such practices will not continue. This means the legislature is expecting IDS to pay for this year’s deficit out of next year’s reduced budget.  IDS would have to operate for all of the 2011-2012 fiscal year with only 80% of the budget it had in 2010-2011, and this at a time when IDS caseloads are increasing.  (Click here for more information on IDS and how North Carolina prosecutors pushed for these cuts).  Most locals expect the budget bill to pass the Senate, with sufficient votes in the Assembly to override any gubernatorial veto.  

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11:05 AM
Monday, May 9, 2011

Lawmakers across country examine the costs of indigent defense

This brief May 9, 2011 article from the Associated Press, via the Greenfield, Indiana Daily Reporter notes that Tennessee is intensifying its review of billings from attorneys paid to represent indigent clients.  The impetus for this increased examination of costs for defending indigent clients is a short-fall in the fund to pay those costs.  “[A]uditing has been stepped up to conserve money,” the AP reports.

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12:42 PM
Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A lack of independence in Georgia’s public defense system

On May 4, 2011, the Associated Press reported new legislation was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal altering the composition of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council.  The measure replaces “the current 15-member Georgia Public Defender Standards Council with nine new appointees tapped by the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker. It also gives the director more power over whom the system hires.”

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11:53 AM
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NY Chief Judge Sets Goal to Provide Counsel at Arraignments

“While there are pending legal and constitutional challenges” to systemic indigent defense deficiencies in New York that will play themselves out, there remains “an independent and compelling moral obligation for every participant in the criminal justice system to work together” to end the practice of arraigning and jailing indigent defendants who are not represented by counsel, announced New York’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman on May 2, 2011 during his annual Law Day address.  Calling the practice “a fundamental failure that can no longer be tolerated in a modern, principled society governed by the rule of law,” he vowed that by next year’s Law Day “the norm in our great State will be that defendants are represented by counsel at arraignment, and that anything less than that will be aberrational in nature.”

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12:29 PM
Friday, April 8, 2011

Pennsylvania’s continuing struggles to meet Gideon’s promise

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. 

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3:43 PM
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gideon Alert: Facing an $18M indigent defense deficit, Iowa can no longer afford its current criminal justice system

The Iowa State Public Defender is a 100% state-funded, statewide agency.  Though the majority of indigent defense services are provided by staffed public defenders, the State Public Defender contracts with private attorneys to provide representation in areas not covered by staff attorneys and to handle overload of the primary system.  On March 4, 2011 the State Public Defender posted a message on its website that the indigent defense fund used to pay private and contract attorneys was out of money.  More than a month later, lawyers are still not being paid to represent indigent clients.  

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2:56 PM
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gideon Alert: North Carolina prosecutors cry foul over disparate funding

On March 30, 2011, North Carolina prosecutors made a PowerPoint presentation to the state legislature claiming to be out-resourced by the Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS).  Asserting that IDS attorneys only handle half of the total criminal caseload handled by prosecutors yet outspend the district attorneys by nearly 43.5% ($132 million to $92 million), one district attorney was quoted in the Progressive Pulse as saying, “We’re outspent and outgunned every day in the courtroom.” (Full PowerPoint presentation is available here. Please note the presentation contains autopsy photos some may find inappropriate).

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9:35 AM
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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

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.)

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12:31 PM
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Article: A Quick Guide to National Standards for Indigent Defense

From time to time, NLADA will publish an in-depth explanation of a particular topic, concept, or standard related to indigent defense services.  Today, we have posted one such article: A Quick Guide to National Standards for Indigent Defense.

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12:00 AM
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Trial-level right to counsel systems and the ethical obligations of indigent defense attorneys

"Ethical Obligations of Indigent Defense Attorneys to Their Clients" provides a basic introduction to the provision of indigent defense services in courts throughout the country and the ethical obligations of the attorney who provide these services.

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at
4:52 PM
Thursday, March 10, 2011

AG Holder addresses juvenile representation before National Association of Counties convention

On March 7, US Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the National Association of Counties at its legislative conference in Washington DC, focusing his remarks on the failure of state and local juvenile justice policies to address the underlying causes of delinquent behavior by children.  Often, the methods our justice systems maintain to punish youthful offenders – especially those accused of lesser offenses – result in increasingly poor behavior.  As a result, he argues, our communities are less safe, not more.

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5:02 PM
Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Independence in New Mexico revisited

In a March 5th editorial, the Albuquerque Journal (subscription required) called for the New Mexico public defender system to be overseen by an independent commission.  New Mexico has a statewide, state-funded indigent defense system that provides services through a combination of staffed public defender offices and contract attorneys.  As we wrote in our February 28 Gideon Alert on the matter: “The dismissal of the public defender is expected with the election of a new governor because New Mexico’s chief public defender is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the governor, rather than through a non-partisan public defense commission as required by national standards including ABA Principle 1.”

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11:26 AM
Friday, March 4, 2011

Gideon Alert: NJ Gov’s dismissal of state public defender sparks debate over independence

On March 3, the Newark Star-Ledger published an editorial on the New Jersey governor’s recent decision to remove the current chief public defender, Yvonne Smith Segars, and nominate a new candidate for the state senate’s approval.  New Jersey has a statewide, state-funded indigent defense system that provides direct services primarily through regional staffed public defender offices.  The state’s chief public defender, who oversees all right to counsel services in the state, is appointed by the governor with approval of the senate.

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2:00 PM
Friday, February 25, 2011

TX Chief Justice speaks out on indigent defense and juvenile justice issues

On February 23, 2011, Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson gave his state of the judiciary before the 82nd state legislature.  Texas has two high courts – the Supreme Court for civil and juvenile matters, and the Court of Criminal Appeals for criminal matters.  Though Justice Jefferson heads the civil high court, he nonetheless felt compelled to speak about indigent defense needs in the state.  Bemoaning the fact that Texas ranks “among the lowest of the 50 states” in right to counsel per capita expenditures, he urged the legislature not to go forward with projected cuts to the indigent defense budget.  The right to counsel is primarily a county responsibility in Texas, with the state making limited contributions through the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense, which provides state funding, requires local planning for indigent defense and reporting of expenditures, and provides an array of resources for counties to improve these services.  A cut to their budget “would drain the system of resources we need to assure indigent criminal defendants get competent lawyers who make the system fair.”

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4:48 PM
Friday, February 18, 2011

Nevada Supreme Court orders uniform public defense case counting definitions

On February 15, 2011, the Nevada Supreme Court adopted a court order requiring all Nevada counties to use a uniform definition of a “case” in reporting right to counsel caseload data.  The definition adopted in Nevada for the time being counts as a single case “a single defendant in a single charging document.”  The Order expressly notes that this measure “will under report caseload at times when one defendant is charged with separate crimes from separate incidents that may necessitate indigent defense counsel to treat the appointment as multiple cases.”   The court agreed with the definition supported by the Conference of State Court Administrators and the National Center for State Courts, first established in their joint 1989 publication State Court Model Statistical Dictionary. That definition instructs administrators to “[c]ount each defendant and all charges involved in a single incident as a single case.”  The Court adopted the modified definition of a case because of the current state of case-tracking technology available throughout the state.  If Nevada develops the case-tracking capacity to “accurately count cases in line with the national model,” the Court advises that they intend to revisit the newly adopted definition.

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1:20 PM
Thursday, February 10, 2011

Free Webinar: The Right to Counsel: Standards & Solutions in a Downturned Economy

On March 8, 2011, JSERI director David Carroll will be conducting a national webinar entitled The Right to Counsel: Standards & Solutions in a Downturned Economy on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance. Program is geared toward policy-makers and judges, but services providers are welcomed. Please forward to key decision-makers in your state. Registration free, but limited.

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10:52 AM
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Missouri’s chronic right to counsel problems revisited

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.  

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2:15 PM
Friday, February 4, 2011

Tom Green County, Texas considers regional defender model

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.

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1:20 PM
Tuesday, February 1, 2011

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

“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.

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7:16 PM
Monday, January 31, 2011

Tribal courts plan for public defense, as they take jurisdiction over felonies

As reported by KUOW radio out of Seattle, Washington, tribal courts are gearing up to take jurisdiction over felonies with authority to sentence people to jail for up to three years.  But to do so, public defense attorneys will have to be provided to those who cannot afford their own counsel. 

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2:25 PM
Friday, January 28, 2011

Is one model of delivering right to counsel services inherently superior?

From time to time, NLADA will publish a more in-depth explanation of a particular topic, concept, or standard. Today, we have posted one such article: Understanding the debate about full-time public defender offices or appointment of private attorneys.

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6:05 PM
Friday, January 28, 2011

San Francisco defenders demonstrate the importance of zealous advocacy

Our American system of justice presumes that law enforcement officials are human, and thus fallible.  Despite the overall dedication and professionalism of the hundreds of thousands of citizens employed in the police and prosecution functions in this country, it is simply impossible to always arrest and prosecute the right defendant for the right crime in every single instance.  If errorless law enforcement existed, there would be no need for a jury of one’s peers to weigh the evidence in a case before an impartial judge.

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11:38 AM
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TX County Looks to Cut Indigent Defense Costs

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.

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2:05 PM
Friday, January 14, 2011

Gideon Alert: Ignoring the 6th Amendment in Broward County, Florida Municipal Courts

It is an all too common occurrence for misdemeanor courts in the United States to pressure people charged with misdemeanors into waiving their right to counsel without adequately informing them of the consequences of doing so.  Courts defend such practices as an attempt to expedite the processing of cases and save money, but the Sixth Amendment does not allow this type of shortcut.  And, the consequences for unrepresented people can be severe, such as loss of public housing, deportation, inability to serve in the armed forces, ineligibility for student loans, and significant financial penalties.

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9:00 AM
Thursday, January 6, 2011

New York Court certifies class in NYCLU lawsuit

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.

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1:00 AM
Thursday, December 30, 2010

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

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."

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1:00 AM