JSERI Technical Assistance

Independence in Maryland

In August of 2009, the Maryland state public defender was fired.  She served at the pleasure of a three-person board, and each of those three people were appointed to the board directly by the Governor.  After months of disagreement between the public defender and the board, they fired her on a 2-1 vote after she refused to implement cuts and reorganization demanded by the board that included increasing the caseload of staff public defenders, disbanding the capital defense and juvenile protection divisions, closing a community-oriented defender office in Baltimore, and firing an African-American division chief.

Measuring the level of constitutional representation in America

All who work in public defense know there is a problem -- we call it the "indigent defense crisis."  In 2002, NLADA established the Justice Standards, Evaluation and Research Initiative (JSERI) in order to concretely evaluate the depth and breadth of both successes and difficulties in indigent defense representation throughout the country, providing a measurement of public defense services against national standards.  JSERI's protocol for evaluation of any system combines a review of the jurisdiction's budgetary, caseload, and organizational information with site visits to observe courtroom practice and interviews of all key criminal justice system stakeholders and policymakers.

Reforming Defender Systems Through Court Orders: the Nevada story

In March of 2007, the Las Vegas Review-Journal began running a spotlight series entitled "Conflicted Justice" on the continuing problems of indigent defense in the state of Nevada.  In large part as a result of those articles, the Nevada Supreme Court formed an indigent defense task force, later named the Commission on Indigent Defense.