Defender

An adequate public defense program must have binding workload standards for the system to function.  In fact, if there were a single criterion by which it was possible to evaluate the overall health of a jurisdiction’s public defense system, the existence and enforcement of strict workload controls might well be the most important benchmark of an effective system.  This is because public defenders do not generate their own work.

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Publication Date: 2010

On January 27, 2010, NLADA publicly released its report, The Guarantee of Counsel: Advocacy & Due Process in Idaho’s Trial Courts.  The report finds that the state of Idaho fails to provide the level of representation required by our Constitution for those who cannot afford counsel in its criminal and juvenile courts.  Idaho has sewn a patchwork quilt of under-funded, inconsistent systems that vary greatly in defining who qualifies for services and in the level of competency of the services rendered.  While there are some admirable qualities in some of the county indigent defense services, NLADA finds that none of the public defense systems in the sample counties are constitutionally adequate.

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Publication Date: 2010

On March 25, 1931, a fight broke out between a group of poor white and black youths aboard a freight train bound for Memphis, Tennessee via Huntsville, Alabama.   Outnumbered, all but one of the white young men was thrown off the train a short distance over the Alabama line, where they promptly alerted local law enforcement.

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Publication Date: 2010

Excerpt adapted from: David Carroll and Scott Wallace, Implementation and Impact of Indigent Defense Standards (December 2003), Award No. 1999-IJ-CX-0049, National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice.

One spring night in 2001, an unidentified caller dialed 911 and hung up before words were exchanged.  The police were routinely dispatched to the apartment where the call originated.  They were greeted at the door by Mike (not his real name).  Mike appeared nervous, having used methamphetamines an hour earlier.  The police asked permission to enter to ensure that no actual emergency was in progress, and Mike consented.  The officers saw drugs in plain view.  Mike and an acquaintance Mary (not her real name) who was also present were arrested and charged with felonies.

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Publication Date: 2010

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Argersinger v. Hamlin, held that Gideon's right to counsel must be afforded to any person facing incarceration for any amount of time, specifically including for a misdemeanor offense.

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Publication Date: 2010

In August of 2009, the Maryland state public defender was fired.  She served at the pleasure of a three-person board, and each of those three people were appointed to the board directly by the Governor.  After months of disagreement between the public defender and the board, they fired her on a 2-1 vote after she refused to implement cuts and reorganization demanded by the board that included increasing the caseload of staff public defenders, disbanding the capital defense and juvenile protection divisions, closing a community-oriented defender office in Baltimore, and firing an African-American division chief.

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Publication Date: 2010

NLADA’s Performance Guidelines offer an excellent, comprehensive and worthwhile definition of what constitutes good solid trial lawyering.  They give realistic meaning to the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel and to the ultimate goal for all trial counsel: “zealous and quality representation.”

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Publication Date: 2010

On June 3, 1961, someone broke into a Panama City, Florida pool hall and stole alcohol and some change from a cigarette machine and a juke box.  Clarence Earl Gideon, a fifty-one-year-old drifter, was charged with a felony -- breaking and entering the pool hall with the intent to commit a misdemeanor.

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Publication Date: 2010

A flat-fee contract pays a lawyer a single lump sum to handle an unlimited number of cases.  This type of contract creates a direct financial conflict of interest between the attorney and each client.  Because the lawyer will be paid the same amount, no matter how much or little he works on each case, it is in the lawyer’s personal interest to devote as little time as possible to each appointed case, leaving more time for the lawyer to do other more lucrative work.  Worse yet, many flat-fee contracts require the lawyer to pay all case-related expenses out of the single lump sum.  In this situation, it is in the lawyer’s personal interest to incur as little expense on behalf of clients as possible, so that more of the lump sum payment can go toward the lawyer’s fee.  Finally, some flat-fee contracts require the lawyer to hire other lawyers out of the same single lump sum, such as when an additional lawyer is required to represent a co-defendant or in other conflict case situations.  Such contracts are oriented solely toward capping defense costs at the lowest possible level, without regard to the lawyer’s ethical and constitutional duties to the client.

Author/Organization: Jon Mosher
Publication Date: 2010

On June 17, 2010, NLADA released Effective Assistance of Counsel: Implementing the Louisiana Public Defender Act of 2007, a report concluding that the Louisiana Public Defender Act of 2007 has yet to take root in Louisiana’s 15th Judicial District.

The Louisiana legislature passed the Louisiana Public Defender Act of 2007 (“Act 307”) on a bipartisan and overwhelming vote, with the expressed intent of ensuring that “all indigent criminal defendants who are eligible to have appointed counsel at public expense receive effective assistance of counsel at each critical stage of the proceeding” and “that the right to counsel is delivered by qualified and competent counsel in a manner that is fair and consistent throughout the state.”

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Publication Date: 2010