Thursday, August 19, 2010

Gideon Alert: MN judge will not let PDs out of open cases, but authorizes office to hire attorneys and bill state

On April 13, 2010, Gideon Alerts reported on Minnesota Public Defenders filing a labor grievance over high caseloads.  An 89-page report from the state legislative auditor states that heavy public defender workload impedes the efficiency of the courts, yet the legislature has not acted to provide relief. 

9:20 AM
Monday, August 16, 2010

Gideon Alert: Missouri prosecutors call for shutting down the state public defender office

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.

9:46 AM
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Gideon Alert: Transparency in Federal Criminal Justice Grants

Louisiana has a decentralized form of government.  With the ratification of the 1974 Louisiana Constitution, local subdivisions – known as parishes – were empowered with broad home rule authority, reversing the traditional concept of local government as a “creature of the state” possessing only delegated authority.  Locally elected governing boards (“police juries”) hold broad home rule authority, but their authority is disbursed across both the legislative and administrative functions such that there is no strong local administrative officer (e.g., a county manager).  The result is that, in most parishes, the Sheriff is the elected official who exerts the most control over local functions.

12:22 PM
Monday, August 2, 2010

Gideon Alert: Legislative sponsor of the Montana Public Defender Act of 2005 calls for the system to be dismantled

On June 9, 2005, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer signed into law the Public Defender Act of 2005.  The Act created an independent 11-member public defender commission that is statutorily bound to issue standards and to hire and oversee a Chief State Public Defender and other centralized staff.  At the same time, the Act provides the flexibility required to address the diverse needs of a geographically large yet sparsely populated state.  Deputy Chief Defenders operating in eleven distinct geographic regions monitor and enforce commission standards – some by relying on public defender offices, others by employing contract defenders.  Indigent defense providers in the regions are supported by the Chief State Defender’s centralized staff, including: a Director of Training; the State Appellate Office; a State Serious Crimes Defender Unit; and, Director of Management Information Services.

2:45 PM
Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gideon Alert: Prosecutor calls Missouri PD workload crisis a "contrivance" as more attorneys turn back cases

On July 29, 2010, the St. Louis Today reported that public defenders in that city are considering refusing new cases, as their colleagues at the Missouri State Public Defenders (MSPD) have already done in Springfield and Troy.  The news story also reports that the prosecuting attorney calls the whole public defender caseload issue “contrived” because prosecutors handle a far greater percentage of cases than do public defenders.

2:47 PM
Monday, July 19, 2010

Gideon Alert: Wyoming tries 85-90% of all juveniles as adults

"Unlike any other state in the nation, Wyoming commonly prosecutes children as criminals, imposing adult sentences for misbehavior more typical of normal adolescence than criminal.  At significant cost to Wyoming taxpayers, children as young as eight years old who get in trouble for such transgressions as smoking at school, drinking at a weekend party, stealing a pack

1:06 PM