Gideon Alerts

Gideon Alert: Philadelphia death penalty assigned counsel rates challenged

BY David Carroll on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 3:28 PM

On April 6, 2011, the Atlantic Center for Constitutional Representation (ACCR) filed a motion in four court-appointed death penalty cases arguing that the rate of attorney compensation Philadelphia County pays in capital cases is so low as to be unconstitutional, as reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  The petition seeks one of two remedies: a) adequate compensation in each of the four cases, or b) not allowing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to seek the death penalty in each case.

Gideon Alert: Facing an $18M indigent defense deficit, Iowa can no longer afford its current criminal justice system

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 2:56 PM

The Iowa State Public Defender is a 100% state-funded, statewide agency.  Though the majority of indigent defense services are provided by staffed public defenders, the State Public Defender contracts with private attorneys to provide representation in areas not covered by staff attorneys and to handle overload of the primary system.  On March 4, 2011 the State Public Defender posted a message on its website that the indigent defense fund used to pay private and contract attorneys was out of money.  More than a month later, lawyers are still not being paid to represent indigent clients.  

Gideon Alert: North Carolina prosecutors cry foul over disparate funding

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 at 9:35 AM

On March 30, 2011, North Carolina prosecutors made a PowerPoint presentation to the state legislature claiming to be out-resourced by the Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS).  Asserting that IDS attorneys only handle half of the total criminal caseload handled by prosecutors yet outspend the district attorneys by nearly 43.5% ($132 million to $92 million), one district attorney was quoted in the Progressive Pulse as saying, “We’re outspent and outgunned every day in the courtroom.” (Full PowerPoint presentation is available here. Please note the presentation contains autopsy photos some may find inappropriate).

Gideon Alert: Budget deal threatens to gut New York indigent defense efforts before they begin

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 12:31 PM

In his February 15, 2011 State of the Judicary speech, New York's Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman quoted a Commission finding that "New York's indigent defense system is severely dysfunctional and structurally incapable of providing poor defendants with effective legal representation."  "Fortunately," he continued, "there is finally cause for optimism thanks to the Legislature's historic creation last June of an Indigent Legal Services Board and a State Office of Indigent Legal Services, the ILS Office."  This week, a budget deal was struck slashing in half the budget for that new office, as reported in a March 28, 2011 press release from the Justice Fund and on March 29 by the North Country Gazette.  The budget compromise was reached after a Senate proposal to eliminate the newly formed office altogether.  (The Senate proposal was an earlier iteration -- S2807-B -- of the bill that is now S2807-C.)

Gideon Alert: NJ Gov’s dismissal of state public defender sparks debate over independence

BY Jon Mosher on Friday, March 4, 2011 at 1:00 PM

On March 3, the Newark Star-Ledger published an editorial on the New Jersey governor’s recent decision to remove the current chief public defender, Yvonne Smith Segars, and nominate a new candidate for the state senate’s approval.  New Jersey has a statewide, state-funded indigent defense system that provides direct services primarily through regional staffed public defender offices.  The state’s chief public defender, who oversees all right to counsel services in the state, is appointed by the governor with approval of the senate.

Gideon Alert: Without independence, New Mexico PD system in limbo after governor dismisses chief

BY David Carroll on Monday, February 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM

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.”

Gideon Alert: Michigan Bar task force recommends how to deliver justice in the face of diminishing returns

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 6:16 PM

“By almost every measure, indigent criminal defense as a whole in Michigan falls far short of accepted standards, undermining the quality of justice, jeopardizing public safety, and creating large and avoidable costs.  Michigan’s public defense system has fallen far short of acceptable standards for decades and is worsening … The cost of properly fixing the system is great; the cost of not fixing it is greater.” This is the conclusion reached about indigent defense services in the State Bar of Michigan’s “Judicial Crossroads Task Force” report Delivering Justice in the Face of Diminishing Returns, released January 26, 2011.  The report summarizes the conclusions of a Bar-convened task force composed of twenty-nine leaders of the Bar, business, civic and political communities, including 14 judges.

Gideon Alert: National Association of Counties calls for improved public defense services

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 1:42 PM

On January 19, 2011, the National Association of Counties (NACo) called upon the United States Department of Justice to assist rural counties in overcoming systemic deficiencies that prevent them from meeting the states’ obligation to provide constitutionally-mandated indigent defense services.  Founded in 1935, NACo is the only national organization that represents county governments in the United States and provides essential services to America’s 3,068 counties.  In their press release, NACo recommends funding pilot public defender programs to serve multi-county jurisdictions, while reminding counties of NACo’s policy that public defenders be active participants in all criminal justice planning at the local level.

Gideon Alert: MA Governor proposes disbanding statewide defender commission

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 10:50 AM

On January 24, 2011, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick proposed sweeping changes to the delivery of indigent defense services in the state.  Changes include abolishing the existing independent commission that oversees the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) and creating a new public defender department under the executive branch.  The Governor would also end CPCS’ primary reliance on the private bar and instead provide most services through full-time staffed public defender offices.  Under the Governor’s plan, the new department would also be responsible for conducting eligibility screening and collecting fees from indigent clients for services.

Gideon Alert: Ignoring the 6th Amendment in Broward County, Florida Municipal Courts

BY David Carroll on Friday, January 14, 2011 at 8:00 AM

It is an all too common occurrence for misdemeanor courts in the United States to pressure people charged with misdemeanors into waiving their right to counsel without adequately informing them of the consequences of doing so.  Courts defend such practices as an attempt to expedite the processing of cases and save money, but the Sixth Amendment does not allow this type of shortcut.  And, the consequences for unrepresented people can be severe, such as loss of public housing, deportation, inability to serve in the armed forces, ineligibility for student loans, and significant financial penalties.