Case Weighting | Time Keeping

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.”

On March 8, NLADA research director David Carroll conducted a national webinar on behalf of, the DOJ/BJA’s National Training and Technical Assistance Center (NTTAC). While state policymakers work to construct indigent defense systems that meet basic foundational national standards, prudent use of taxpayer dollars requires that they concurrently decrease the need for public defense attorneys by removing non-violent, low-level felonies and misdemeanors from the formal justice system through diversion and/or reclassification of crimes to infractions where it is safe, reasonable and prudent to do so. The presentation explores the state of the right to counsel in America, offers insight into current national standards, and presents practical solutions to public defense problems that threaten our courts' abilities to produce verdicts that are fair, correct, swift and final. The hour-long webinar includes a 40-min presentation followed by 20 mins of questions and answers.

Author/Organization: David Carroll, NLADA
Publication Date: 03/08/2011

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More Coloradoans requiring public defense attorneys

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 3:22 PM

The Denver Post reports that, even as the number of criminal prosecutions across the state has decreased, the Colorado State Public Defender is facing a record-high number of clients to defend.  This paradox, likely common throughout the nation, has a simple explanation.  The downturn in the economy has caused many people to lose their jobs, which in turn means that more people are falling into poverty.  When these people are cited or arrested for alleged violations of the law, increasingly larger percentages of them qualify for public representation.  So, even as fewer people overall are being prosecuted, more and more of them are financially incapable of hiring a private attorney.

 The Agenda for Developing & Implementing Case Management Systems for Public Defenders and Beyond.  A two-day by invitation only workshop held October 22-23, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia.

Author/Organization: Phyllis Mann, National Defender Leadership Institute (NDLI)
Publication Date: 10/22/2010

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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