Misdemeanor

Underrepresentation in Kentucky misdemeanor courts

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 3:34 PM

“An inevitable consequence of volume that large is the almost total preoccupation in such a court with the movement of cases.  The calendar is long, speed often is substituted for care, and casually arranged out-of-court compromise too often is substituted for adjudication.  Inadequate attention tends to be given to the individual defendant, whether, in protecting his rights, sifting the facts at trial, deciding the social risk he presents, or determining how to deal with him after conviction.  The frequent result is futility and failure.” [Argersinger v. Hamlin, 407 U.S. 25 (1972), affording the right to counsel to every case with a potential jail sentence.]

Idaho's misdemeanor probation systems may violate state Constitution

BY Jon Mosher on Thursday, October 13, 2011 at 2:57 PM

The October 12, 2011 Idaho Statesman reports that Idaho’s misdemeanor probation system may have been operating illegally for almost two decades.  People placed on probation for felony offenses are supervised by the State Board of Correction.  But each of Idaho’s 44 counties decide for themselves how to supervise people on probation for misdemeanors.  Thirty-eight of the counties operate their own misdemeanor probation programs, one county has no program at all, and five counties contract with a private for-profit company to provide services.  A recently filed class-action lawsuit challenged the private contract program in Ada County, which includes the state capital Boise, alleging that probationers are being charged higher fees than allowed by state law and are being subjected to conditions that were not part of their sentence.  Of even greater concern to County Commissioners throughout the state is an August 15 memo from Sara Thomas, chief of the Idaho State Appellate Defender’s appellate unit.  Thomas’ memo concludes that Idaho’s Constitution requires all people on probation to be supervised by the State Board of Corrections and that the legislature has never had authority to put counties in charge of adult misdemeanor probation programs.  

Gideon Alert: NACDL report exposes Florida’s “no counsel” courts

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 3:16 PM

“Supreme Court Justices rarely consider appeals of misdemeanor convictions.  Nearly a half-million misdemeanor cases are filed in Florida’s county courts every year, and the vast majority of those cases are resolved by a plea of guilty, often in a matter of minutes.  Advice of rights by the courts and the assistance of lawyers for the defendants, whether they can afford them or not, are exceptions, not the rule.  It is as if our criminal and traffic courts operate as 'constitution-free zones,' outside the law.” -- Gerald Kogan, former Florida Chief Justice

Review of the operations and policies of the Department of Assigned Counsel (DAC) in Pierce County, Washington, with a particular focus on indigency determinations, attorney appointments, investigations, training, and resources. Study team reports that many county officials lack a clear understanding of the organizational structure and function of the DAC. Empirical findings were made difficult by the absence of reliable statistical data, but the authors note that the majority of cases in Pierce County are handled by attorneys on the assigned counsel panel and that zealous pre-trial advocacy seems to be lacking in the county. Recommendations include, but are not limited to: determining procedures for establishing indigency, hiring more investigators and support staff, developing attorney training programs, and upgrading resources and facilities.

Author/Organization: National Legal Aid & Defender Association
Publication Date: 1981

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Gideon Alert: Washington State lawsuit exposes non-representation in municipal courts

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 1:19 PM

On June 10, 2011, a class action lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of Skagit County, Washington, by the law firm of Terrell Marshall Daudt & Willie PLLC and The Scott Law Group P.S., as reported in the June 20 Seattle Times.  The suit alleges that the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington have breached their constitutional duties to operate a public defense system that provides effective assistance of counsel to indigent persons charged with crimes in their municipal courts. The complaint alleges that the defendants failed to: a) impose caseloads restrictions on public defenders; b) “monitor and oversee the public defense system;” c) “provide adequate funds for public defense;” and, d) “provide representation at all critical stages of the prosecution;” among others.   The cities’ failures, the complaint contends, have resulted in a constructive denial of the right to counsel under Gideon v. Wainwright.  The lawsuit asks for injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent further violations and to protect the constitutional rights of all indigent persons charged with crimes in the municipal courts of Mount Vernon and Burlington. Or, as co-lead attorney Matthew Zuchetto states in the plaintiffs’ press release,“[a]t the end of the day, our clients are simply asking for one thing: to fix the system."

Amendment to 2009-2010 contract for public defender services, extending the terms for two years to expire in December 2012.  

Author/Organization: Municipalities of Mount Vernon and Burlington, Washington
Publication Date: 2011

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Flat fee contract for public defense services in the municipal courts of Mount Vernon and Burlington, in Skagit County, Washington, effective January 2009 to December 2010.

Author/Organization: Municipalities of Mount Vernon and Burlington, Washington
Publication Date: 2009

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Class action suit filed on behalf of defendants facing misdemeanor charges in the municipal courts of Mount Vernon and Burlington, in Skagit County, Washington.  The complaint alleges, among other things, that the contract defenders are routinely in violation of their performance obligations to their public clients, and thus the municipalities are liable for a constructive denial of the class's 6th Amendment right to counsel.

Author/Organization: Terrell Marshall Daudt & Willie PLLC
Publication Date: 06/09/2011

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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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Addressing representatives of U.S. county governments, David Carroll stated: "Prudent use of taxpayer dollars requires that we all work together to get state policy-makers to reduce the need for public defense attorneys in the first place by removing non-violent, low level felonies and misdemeanors from the formal justice system through diversion, mediation and/or reclassification of crimes to non-jailable infractions where it is safe, reasonable and prudent to do so.  It is only through reducing our dependence on public defense that we will ever be able to get states to relieve counties of this financial burden once and for all."

Author/Organization: National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA)
Publication Date: 01/20/2011

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