Criminal Defense

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.”

 The criminal justice system in Pennsylvania is finely tuned and balanced and almost always delivers reliable results. However, no such system, much less our own, will achieve perfection in its exercise. Due process does not require that every conceivable step at whatever cost be taken to eliminate the possibility of convicting an innocent person. Even so, the system cannot routinely accept the conviction of an innocent person without being challenged to consider measures to reduce the likelihood of error and grant redress to victims of these errors. Accepting this challenge as fully and as reasonably as we can further strengthens public confidence in the integrity of our criminal investigations and convictions.

Author/Organization: Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission
Publication Date: 09/15/2011

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There are more than 40,000 children involved in delinquency proceedings in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Since 1972, state law has provided that each of these children is entitled to an attorney at every stage of the delinquency process. Despite this legal mandate, there are serious deficiencies in the delivery of indigent defense to accused and adjudicated youth. The availability and quality of defense representation varies widely across the Commonwealth. In failing to render effective advocacy, a system cannot protect individual rights, provide rehabilitation, or effectively hold youth accountable for their actions.

Author/Organization: American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Center
Publication Date: 10/2003

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Trial-level right to counsel systems and the ethical obligations of indigent defense attorneys

BY on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 4:52 PM

"Ethical Obligations of Indigent Defense Attorneys to Their Clients" provides a basic introduction to the provision of indigent defense services in courts throughout the country and the ethical obligations of the attorney who provide these services.

This Article, published at 75 Mo.L.Rev. 715, is a basic introduction to the provision of indigent defense services in state courts throughout the country and the ethical obligations of the attorneys who provide those services.  First, the Article briefly quantifies what currently exists in our right to counsel systems -- what we know, and what we do not know.  The Article then discusses the rules that generally govern the ethics of representation provided by indigent defense attorneys.  Third, the Article examines the measures by which attorneys can know whether they are fulfilling and will continue to fulfill their ethical obligations.  Finally, the Article discusses the responsibilities of the broader justice system to ensure ethical representation of indigent defendants and why that goal is rarely achieved. 

Author/Organization: Phyllis E. Mann
Publication Date: 2010

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Tribal courts plan for public defense, as they take jurisdiction over felonies

BY Phyllis E. Mann on Monday, January 31, 2011 at 1:25 PM

As reported by KUOW radio out of Seattle, Washington, tribal courts are gearing up to take jurisdiction over felonies with authority to sentence people to jail for up to three years.  But to do so, public defense attorneys will have to be provided to those who cannot afford their own counsel. 

On August 16, 2007, a public defense attorney in Portage County, Ohio was appointed to represent a client on the very day the client's case was set to go to trial by jury.  The attorney asked for a delay to investigate and prepare, but the judge only gave him an extended 2 1/2 hour lunch break.  Unable to proceed with the trial, the attorney was arrested, convicted, and sentenced by the judge for contempt of court.

This Resolution issued, commending the public defense attorney for defending his client's right to effective assistance of counsel, and condemning the judge's actions.

Author/Organization: American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD)
Publication Date: 08/25/2007

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When your client is a veteran, there are significant social service resources potentially available to aid you in effectively representing your client.

Author/Organization: Phyllis E. Mann
Publication Date: 12/06/2010

 A guide to social service resources and veterans benefits specialists in Louisiana, developed by the Louisiana Public Defender Board with assistance from the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, to aid public defense attorneys in effectively representing clients who are veterans.

Author/Organization: Louisiana Public Defender Board (LPDB)
Publication Date: 11/2010

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Louisiana Public Defender Jean Faria tells the story of her last capital case and more importantly of the final letter she received from her client.  His words to her, received after his execution, are what causes her every day to say "I am not giving up until my last breath."

Author/Organization: National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA)
Publication Date: 11/19/2009

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