Ethics | Professional Responsibility

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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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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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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In 2003, the American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD) addressed the ethical duties of chief executive officers in indigent defense systems when faced with excessive caseloads. This is the Ethics Opinion issued, which concludes: "A chief executive of an agency providing public defense services is ethically prohibited from accepting a number of cases which exceeds the capacity of the agency's attorneys to provide competent, quality representation in every case."

Author/Organization: American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD)
Publication Date: 04/2003

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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The phrase “evidence-based practices” (EBP) is the catch-phrase of the day throughout our criminal justice systems.  But what exactly are these practices, how do they affect our clients, and what do we as defense attorneys need to know and do about them? 

Author/Organization: Phyllis E. Mann
Publication Date: 09/22/10

Gideon Alert: Poor performance costs Washington defender $2.9 million; inexperience, high caseloads, and "trying one's best" are no excuse

BY David Carroll on Friday, May 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM

On May 14, 2010, the Wenatchee World reported that a Chelan County public defender has agreed to pay a $2.9 million dollar settlement to a former client for admittedly providing ineffective assistance of counsel that led to the client’s wrongful

Gideon Alert: Poor performance costs Washington defender $2.9 million; inexperience, high caseloads, and "trying one's best" are no excuse

BY David Carroll on Friday, May 14, 2010 at 11:05 AM

On May 14, 2010, the Wenatchee World reported that a Chelan County public defender has agreed to pay a $2.9 million dollar settlement to a former client for admittedly providing ineffective assistance of counsel that led to the client’s wrongful imprisonment