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.”
On February 16, 2011, newly elected New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez removed the state’s Chief Public Defender Hugh Dangler from his post, as reported in the Santa Fe Reporter. New Mexico has a statewide, state-funded indigent defense system that provides services through a combination of staffed public defender offices and contract attorneys. The dismissal of the public defender is expected with the election of a new governor because New Mexico’s chief public defender is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the governor, rather than through a non-partisan public defense commission as required by national standards including ABA Principle 1. The dismissal in the middle of a legislative session without a replacement, however, “brings questions for the department's ability to advocate for itself.”
On December 2, 2010 the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar and the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition filed a federal lawsuit against Governor Bill Ritter challenging the constituionality of a law requiring misdemeanor defendants to delay appointment of counsel until after they have spoken to a prosecutor about a plea deal.
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