Administration | Structure

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

BY David Carroll on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 2:46 PM

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:

Final report of the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission's Task Force and Advisory Committee on Services to Indigent Criminal Defendants: "While recognizing the difficult fiscal environment the Commonwealth faces currently, the advisory committee urges the General Assembly to perform its duties under the U.S. Constitution and as a civilized society by finally addressing the deficiencies that undermine its indigent criminal defense system by reforming the system to comply with national standards."

Author/Organization: Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission
Publication Date: 12/06/2011

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Gideon Alert: Prosecutorial interference in Utah

BY David Carroll on Monday, November 21, 2011 at 3:58 PM

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.  

In 1978, the National Center for Defense Management provided recommendations for expansion of Kentucky's then-state defender agency, which was limited to appellate and post-conviction representation, to include trial-level representation. 

Author/Organization: National Center for Defense Management
Publication Date: 08/1978

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Report of the ABA's Bar Information Project's technical assistance to the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, provided by The Spangenberg Group. 

Author/Organization: The Spangenberg Group
Publication Date: 01/1998

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 The juvenile justice system in Kentucky has endured a substantial history of problems concerning its treatment of juvenile offenders and the lack of systemic advocacy and focused reform efforts. After years of public criticism, media attention, litigation challenging the conditions in Kentucky’s juvenile facilities, lack of access to the effective assistance of counsel and to the courts, and failure to provide adequate treatment, Kentucky officials began the long road to institutional change by the second half of the 1990’s. The creation of the Department of Juvenile Justice, the commitment of Governor Patton to help fix a broken juvenile justice system, and the Kentucky legislature’s move to invest millions of new dollars into these initiatives were the beginning.

Author/Organization: American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center
Publication Date: 09/2002

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Gideon Alert: Pittsburgh symptomatic of Pennsylvania’s right to counsel problems

BY David Carroll on Monday, October 17, 2011 at 11:38 AM

"[D]ysfunctional family life is rarely observed by individual family members, who are so entrenched in the process that they cannot really see it for what it is." Thus concludes Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender Assessment, a report by the Institute for Law & Policy Planning (L&PP). The study, commissioned by Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), explains why it is that public defense attorneys within deficient systems cannot understand the depth and breadth of the on-going, chronic right to counsel problems in their own jurisdiction.  Because of that, public defense attorneys often cannot fix their own systemic problems.  The L&PP report remained hidden from public view for over two years and only came to light through the committed effort of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) to get it released under Pennsylvania’s freedom of information laws.

 Fifteen years after filing a class action lawsuit alleging grossly inadequate and unconstitutional representation for clients of the Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender (“OPD”), the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania released a report today entitled A Job Left Undone: Allegheny County’s Fork in the Road, which describes ongoing, severe systemic problems with the OPD and calls upon county and court leaders and the county executive candidates to make a commitment to fix the agency. The report also reveals that county officials have been aware of the deplorable state of the OPD since at least late 2008, when a secret study they commissioned noted grave concerns about the OPD’s management and operations, yet officials took virtually no action to rectify the problems.

Author/Organization: American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA)
Publication Date: 10/17/2011

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A 1995 evaluation of the Allegheny County (Pittsburgh) PA public defender office.

Author/Organization: The Spangenberg Group
Publication Date: 11/1995

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