Standards

New York Court certifies class in NYCLU lawsuit

BY David Carroll on Thursday, January 6, 2011 at 12:00 AM

On May 6, 2010, we reported that New York’s Highest Court allowed the NYCLU lawsuit to proceed.  Two months later a trial court judge ruled that the class could not be certified, making the lawsuit potentially more difficult to pursue.  On January 6, 2011, an appellate court overturned that decision and certified the class, noting “denial of class certification gives rise to the possibility of multiple lawsuits involving duplicative claims of those asserted in this action and inconsistent rulings by various courts in the state.”  The ruling paves the way for the case to proceed to trial, as an appeal to the Court of Appeals is viewed as highly unlikely.

Gideon Alert: Iowa S.Ct. finds rigid flat-fee contracts “substantially undermine” right to counsel

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 at 3:30 PM

The Iowa Supreme Court handed down a unanimous decision in Simmons v. State Public Defender, No. 07-0870 (Iowa Nov. 24, 2010), finding that a rigid fee cap of $1,500 per appellate case would “substantially undermine the right of indigents to effective assistance of counsel.”  The Court explained that “inadequate compensation will restrict the pool of attorneys willing to represent indigent defendants” and that “the low level of compensation threatens the quality of indigent representation because of the perverse economic incentives introduced into the criminal justice system. … Low compensation pits a lawyer’s economic interest … against the interest of the client.”  Reasoning that the fee caps at issue in the case would have a “profound chilling effect” on the right to counsel and that the legislature intended to uphold the right to counsel, the Court held that Iowa rules imposing a hard-fee cap are unenforceable.

Gideon Alert: The “Indiana Model” creates unequal representation

BY David Carroll on Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 2:46 PM

Indiana has a strong home-rule tradition, favoring local autonomy over state control in many governmental facets. Indigent defense in the state is organized at the county level, and historically representation has been provided most typically by part-time public defenders operating under contract.

Gideon Alert: MA Prosecutors Argue for Parity with Public Defense Providers

BY David Carroll on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 12:00 AM

On October 13, 2010, nine of the eleven Massachusetts elected District Attorneys held a press conference in the state legislature to alert policy-makers to what they call an imbalance in criminal justice funding.  Arguing that the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS) receives $

Gideon Alert: Saddling poor defendants with high court-imposed debt is bad public policy

BY David Carroll on Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 5:11 PM

On October 14th, 2010, the USA Today editorialized that the practice of imposing high court-ordered debts on the backs of clients as part of sentencing in criminal cases –- including forcing indigent defendants to pay for the cost of their appointed attorneys -– actually heightens the chance that people may re-offend and is unsound public policy.

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.

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Publication Date: 2010

On January 27, 2010, NLADA publicly released its report, The Guarantee of Counsel: Advocacy & Due Process in Idaho’s Trial Courts.  The report finds that the state of Idaho fails to provide the level of representation required by our Constitution for those who cannot afford counsel in its criminal and juvenile courts.  Idaho has sewn a patchwork quilt of under-funded, inconsistent systems that vary greatly in defining who qualifies for services and in the level of competency of the services rendered.  While there are some admirable qualities in some of the county indigent defense services, NLADA finds that none of the public defense systems in the sample counties are constitutionally adequate.

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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.

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Publication Date: 2010

Excerpt adapted from: David Carroll and Scott Wallace, Implementation and Impact of Indigent Defense Standards (December 2003), Award No. 1999-IJ-CX-0049, National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice.

One spring night in 2001, an unidentified caller dialed 911 and hung up before words were exchanged.  The police were routinely dispatched to the apartment where the call originated.  They were greeted at the door by Mike (not his real name).  Mike appeared nervous, having used methamphetamines an hour earlier.  The police asked permission to enter to ensure that no actual emergency was in progress, and Mike consented.  The officers saw drugs in plain view.  Mike and an acquaintance Mary (not her real name) who was also present were arrested and charged with felonies.

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Publication Date: 2010

In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Argersinger v. Hamlin, held that Gideon's right to counsel must be afforded to any person facing incarceration for any amount of time, specifically including for a misdemeanor offense.

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Publication Date: 2010