Independence

Gideon Alert: Policies of prosecutor and judges close doors of Val Verde County (Del Rio, Texas) public defender

BY David Carroll on Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 6:29 PM

On October 10, 2010, the San Antonio News ran a feature article on the closing of Texas’ first regional public defender office.  The office served Val Verde, Kinney, Terrell, and Edwards counties, and had opened in 2006 as a division of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aide, Inc. (TRLA). 

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.

Author/Organization:
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.

Author/Organization:
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.

Author/Organization:
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

Justice For All Act (JFAA) reauthorization bill, introduced in September 2010 by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.

Author/Organization: US Senator Patrick Leahy
Publication Date: 09/30/2010

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Gideon Alert: DOJ data confirms existence of right to counsel workload crisis in the United States

BY David Carroll on Friday, September 17, 2010 at 10:56 AM

On September 16, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released additional results from its 2007 public defender survey in two separate reports.  These reports on state public defender programs and county-based public defender programs detail the existence of serious deficiencies in the way states and counties deliver Sixth Amendment right to counsel services, most notably in the excessive caseloads public defenders are forced to carry.

Gideon Alert: Tennessee Supreme Court issues advisory opinion on sitting prosecutor appointed to public defender commission

BY David Carroll on Friday, September 10, 2010 at 10:20 AM

The State of Tennessee provides the majority of the funding for the right to counsel and trial-level services are provided through a statewide system of elected public defenders from the state’s 31 judicial districts.  District 20 (Davidson County - Nashville) and District 30 (Shelby County - Memphis) are served by non-elected local public defender offices, which existed prior to creation of the state system in 1989. [Correction: The original posting of this article contained an error.  Davidson County's public defender is an elected official.]

The Tennessee court establishes that the Lt. Governor's appointment of a sitting district attorney general to the Post-Conviction Defender Commission violates prevailing standards.

Author/Organization: Board of Professional Responsibility of the Tennessee Supreme Court
Publication Date: 2010

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On July 13, 2010, Tennessee Lt. Governor and Speaker of the Senate appointed a sitting prosecutor to the Post-Conviction Defender Commission.  This letter of July 22, 2010 is NLADA's response to the blatant disregard of national standards on independence.

Author/Organization: David Carroll
Publication Date: 07/22/2010

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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