JSERI Blog Archives

Thursday, April 7, 2011

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

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.  

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2:56 PM
Wednesday, December 1, 2010

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

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.

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4:30 PM