Sunday, December 12, 2010

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

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.”

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1:31 PM
Thursday, December 2, 2010

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

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. 
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2:11 PM
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

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

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.

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4:30 PM
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gideon Alert: The “Indiana Model” creates unequal representation

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.

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3:46 PM
Sunday, October 24, 2010

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

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). 

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6:29 PM
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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

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 $

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12:00 AM