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BY on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 3:41 PM

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Adopted in February 2002, the American Bar Association's Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System distill the existing voluminous ABA standards for public defense systems to their most basic elements, which officials and policymakers can readily review and apply.  In the words of the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, the Ten Principles “constitute the fundamental criteria to be met for a public defense delivery system to deliver effective and efficient, high quality, ethical, conflict-free representation to accused persons who cannot afford to hire an attorney.”  Our nation’s chief law enforcement officer, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, has called the ABA Ten Principles the “building blocks” of a functioning public defense system.

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Publication Date: 2010

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.

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Publication Date: 02/19/2010

Gideon Alert: New Mexico Voters Approve Independence of Public Defender

BY on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 3:57 PM

Among the recent election results, the passage of a Constitutional Amendment in New Mexico stands as a significant milestone in public defense reform.  The state is now in compliance with Principle #1 of the ABA Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System – that the “public defense function, including the selection, funding, and payment of defense counsel, is independent.”

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

BY Edwin A. Burnette on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 6:22 PM

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.

Gideon Alert: High Court Focuses on the Right to Effective Counsel in Plea Bargaining

BY Edwin A. Burnette on Thursday, April 5, 2012 at 10:46 AM

The meaning of the Sixth Amendment’s promise of “effective counsel” has taken on additional dimensions over the past few weeks. On March 21, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions exploring the right to effective assistance of counsel during plea bargaining. In Missouri v.

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

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 6:12 PM

“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.”

This paper discusses the judicial underpinnings of the ABA Ten Principles and shows that the Principles are the foundational standards that describe the obligations of indigent defense systems in terms no one could misunderstand, providing guideposts for assessing the reasonable performance of those systems.   

Author/Organization: David Carroll, Phyllis Mann, and Jon Mosher
Publication Date: 10/26/2011

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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This is an excel spreadsheet that lists standards relating to criminal justice and indigent defense, at the national, state, and local levels.  It is fairly complete at the national level.  It is incomplete at the state and local levels.

Author/Organization: Jon Mosher, NLADA
Publication Date: 11/2010

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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AG asks Black Journalists to keep focusing on indigent defense deficiencies

BY Jon Mosher on Friday, August 5, 2011 at 10:53 AM

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.