County Defender System

Idaho's misdemeanor probation systems may violate state Constitution

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 2:57 PM

The October 12, 2011 Idaho Statesman reports that Idaho’s misdemeanor probation system may have been operating illegally for almost two decades.  People placed on probation for felony offenses are supervised by the State Board of Correction.  But each of Idaho’s 44 counties decide for themselves how to supervise people on probation for misdemeanors.  Thirty-eight of the counties operate their own misdemeanor probation programs, one county has no program at all, and five counties contract with a private for-profit company to provide services.  A recently filed class-action lawsuit challenged the private contract program in Ada County, which includes the state capital Boise, alleging that probationers are being charged higher fees than allowed by state law and are being subjected to conditions that were not part of their sentence.  Of even greater concern to County Commissioners throughout the state is an August 15 memo from Sara Thomas, chief of the Idaho State Appellate Defender’s appellate unit.  Thomas’ memo concludes that Idaho’s Constitution requires all people on probation to be supervised by the State Board of Corrections and that the legislature has never had authority to put counties in charge of adult misdemeanor probation programs.  

Two Utah papers react to ACLU-Utah report

BY Jon Mosher on Monday, August 29, 2011 at 10:50 AM

In response to the ACLU of Utah's recent report on the state's failure to meet its constitutional right to counsel oblications, two Utah newspapers published editorials expressing appropriate shock and outrage.  "One thing that any self-respecting bunch of Don’t Tread On Me Utahns should be concerned about is the prospect of being arrested, cuffed and dragged into court without so much as a marginally competent attorney on hand to defend you," the Salt Lake Tribune wrote on August 28, 2011.  

Gideon Alert: Undue prosecutorial influence on the 6th Amendment in Utah

BY David Carroll on Friday, August 26, 2011 at 11:47 AM

In Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312 (1981), the United States Supreme Court found that states have a “constitutional obligation to respect the professional independence of the public defenders whom it engages,” noting that a “public defender is not amenable to administrative direction in the same sense as other state employees”. In fact, the Court noted, a “defense lawyer best serves the public not by acting on the State's behalf or in concert with it, but rather by advancing the undivided interests of the client.” A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah (ACLU-Utah) finds that the state of Utah fails to uphold this constitutional obligation.  In “most” of the nine counties studied by the ACLU-Utah, the local prosecutor “routinely” is responsible for hand-selecting opposing defense counsel and often helps to negotiate the terms of defender contracts. Worse, the report highlights that in several counties defense attorneys must request trial-related expenses from the county attorneys.  

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association studied right to counsel services in the state of Tennessee in 1977. This is their report.

Author/Organization: National Legal Aid & Defender Association
Publication Date: 1977

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The Nevada Supreme Court's ADKT-411(January 2008) ordered that “each judicial district shall formulate and submit to the Nevada Supreme Court for approval by May 1, 2008, an administrative plan that, among other requirements, provides for the “appointment of trial counsel.” This plan sets forth the method of delivering services in Washoe County (Reno).

Author/Organization: Hon. Connie J. Steinheimer, chief judge of the Second Judicial District Court
Publication Date: 05/01/2008

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Gideon Alert: Cochise County, Arizona contemplates contract system in light of important State Court decision

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 1:55 PM

“The insidiousness of overburdening defense counsel is that it can result in concealing from the courts, and particularly the appellate courts, the nature and extent of damage that is done to defendants by their attorneys' excessive caseloads,” declared the Arizona State Supreme Court in State v. Joe U. Smith, 140 Ariz. 355, 681 P.2d 1374 (Ariz. Apr. 4, 1984).  The Smith Court found that the lowest bid system for obtaining indigent defense counsel in Mohave County (Kingman) violated the defendant’s right to due process.  In light of the Smith case, Arizona counties struggle to provide fiscal predictability to the taxpaying public, while ensuring the rights to counsel and due process of each indigent defendant. The Wilcox Range News reported on August 10, 2011 that one county – Cochise County (Bisbee) – is currently considering a proposal to switch from an assigned counsel system paying an hourly rate of $50 to a system paying a “flat fee of $150 per misdemeanor case and $900 per felony case.”

Cochise County, AZ released for public comment a proposed contract for tertiary defender services. This letter provides David Carroll's comments on the proposal. While the proposal went far toward meeting many of the ABA Ten Principles, it failed with respect to independence (Principle 1) and accountability (Principle 10). 

Author/Organization: David Carroll, NLADA
Publication Date: 08/16/2011

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Proposed contract for tertiary conflict and overflow cases would pay private attorneys a single flat fee of $150 per misdemeanor case and $900 per felony case.

Author/Organization: Cochise County, Arizona
Publication Date: 2011

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Ruling in Zarabia v. Bradshaw that “[i]t is impermissible for the presiding judge, in wholesale fashion, to transfer the public's constitutional obligation to pay the financial cost of indigent defense to the county's private lawyers,”  the Arizona Supreme Court reaffirmed that the principles expounded in State v. Joe U. Smith were the appropriate standard for gauging the effectiveness of a right to counsel system. 

Author/Organization: Arizona Supreme Court
Publication Date: 1996

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In finding that the lowest bid system for obtaining indigent defense counsel in Mohave County (Kingman) violated the defendant’s right to due process and right to counsel under Arizona and U.S. Constitutions, the state supreme court wrote: “The insidiousness of overburdening defense counsel is that it can result in concealing from the courts, and particularly the appellate courts, the nature and extent of damage that is done to defendants by their attorneys' excessive caseloads.”

Author/Organization: Arizona Supreme Court
Publication Date: 1984

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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