Indigent Defense System

Interview with New York's director of indigent legal services

BY David Carroll on Friday, June 10, 2011 at 2:34 PM

The New York Law Journal sat down with current Director of the Office of Indigent Legal Service, Bill Leahy, to talk about the current state of the right to counsel in New York. Bill formerly headed up the Massachusetts’ Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) and uses the opportunity to compare and contrast public defense services in Massachusetts and New York. Worth the time to read.

Mississippi has 82 counties and a statewide population estimated in 2009 at roughly 2.95 million. The felony trial courts are structured through 22 Circuit Court districts, with each comprising multiple counties.  As the NAACP-LDF so succinctly stated, with the exception of death penalty cases and felony appeals (since 2005), “the State of Mississippi does not contribute one dollar towards the representation of poor defendants. Instead, it requires counties to shoulder the full obligation of providing lawyers for the poor.”

Author/Organization: Phyllis E. Mann
Publication Date: 2010

Gideon Alert: Alabama creates statewide indigent defense system

BY David Carroll on Thursday, June 9, 2011 at 9:00 AM

On June 9, 2011, Alabama joined the majority of states in the country that have state-administered right to counsel systems. While Alabama already funds indigent defense at the state level, the legislation (SB 440) creates centralized oversight of right to counsel services, requires the promulgation of standards, and seeks to expand the number of staffed public defender offices. The bill is a compromise reach by a conference committee.  An earlier version of the bill was passed by the Senate (24-3) on May 25 and would have unified the state's divergent county-based right to counsel systems, but only a substitute bill passed in the House. The conference bill passed the Senate unanimously (32-0) and the House voted the measure through on an overwhelmingly bi-partisan basis (97-4-1). Governor Bentley is expected to sign the conference committee version of the bill into law, as he is largely viewed as the leader behind the movement to bring accountability to the delivery of right to counsel services.

A letter from David Carroll, director of research at NLADA, to Alabama Governor Bentley regarding proposed legislation to reform the state's right to counsel delivery system. Based largely on the need to adhere to national standards, the letter suggests many of the proposed changes within the bill would be solidified and improved upon by also establishing independence of the public defense function.

Author/Organization: David Carroll, NLADA
Publication Date: 05/09/2011

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Gideon Alert: North Carolina attorneys leave appointed counsel panels in droves

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 at 11:05 AM

On May 4, 2011, the House side of North Carolina’s General Assembly passed a budget bill (HB 200) that cuts annual funding for the statewide Indigent Defense Services (IDS) by roughly $11 million, or more than 9% of their previous year’s budget.  The threatened cut is especially drastic because, based on projected need for the remainder of this fiscal year, IDS expects to be nearly $12.8 million short.  In the past, the legislature would make a one-time appropriation to IDS to make up for any end-of-the-year shortfall, but the current legislative leadership has made it clear that such practices will not continue. This means the legislature is expecting IDS to pay for this year’s deficit out of next year’s reduced budget.  IDS would have to operate for all of the 2011-2012 fiscal year with only 80% of the budget it had in 2010-2011, and this at a time when IDS caseloads are increasing.  (Click here for more information on IDS and how North Carolina prosecutors pushed for these cuts).  Most locals expect the budget bill to pass the Senate, with sufficient votes in the Assembly to override any gubernatorial veto.  

North Carolina Bar Association letter to the Governor and the General Assembly regarding the impact of proposed budget legislation on the delivery of right to counsel services statewide.

Author/Organization: North Carolina Bar Association
Publication Date: 05/05/2011

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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Lawmakers across country examine the costs of indigent defense

BY Phyllis E. Mann on Monday, May 9, 2011 at 12:42 PM

This brief May 9, 2011 article from the Associated Press, via the Greenfield, Indiana Daily Reporter notes that Tennessee is intensifying its review of billings from attorneys paid to represent indigent clients.  The impetus for this increased examination of costs for defending indigent clients is a short-fall in the fund to pay those costs.  “[A]uditing has been stepped up to conserve money,” the AP reports.

A lack of independence in Georgia’s public defense system

BY Jon Mosher on Wednesday, May 4, 2011 at 11:53 AM

On May 4, 2011, the Associated Press reported new legislation was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal altering the composition of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council.  The measure replaces “the current 15-member Georgia Public Defender Standards Council with nine new appointees tapped by the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker. It also gives the director more power over whom the system hires.”

NY Chief Judge Sets Goal to Provide Counsel at Arraignments

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 12:29 PM

“While there are pending legal and constitutional challenges” to systemic indigent defense deficiencies in New York that will play themselves out, there remains “an independent and compelling moral obligation for every participant in the criminal justice system to work together” to end the practice of arraigning and jailing indigent defendants who are not represented by counsel, announced New York’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman on May 2, 2011 during his annual Law Day address.  Calling the practice “a fundamental failure that can no longer be tolerated in a modern, principled society governed by the rule of law,” he vowed that by next year’s Law Day “the norm in our great State will be that defendants are represented by counsel at arraignment, and that anything less than that will be aberrational in nature.”

Pennsylvania’s continuing struggles to meet Gideon’s promise

BY David Carroll on Friday, April 8, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Though the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requires each of its counties to establish a public defender office, Pennsylvania remains one of only two states that have elected to delegate its entire right to counsel financial obligation under Gideon v. Wainwright and its progeny to its counties (Utah is the other).  Leaving counties responsible for administering and funding their criminal justice systems, and in particular indigent defense services, can put an undue hardship on local jurisdictions to ensure adequate representation of poor people accused with crimes.  Nationally, counties with fewer sources of revenue may have to dedicate a far greater portion of their limited budget to defender services than would counties in better economic standing.