Thursday, May 12, 2011

Local bar association proposes added independence for Monroe County NY public defender

On May 9, 2011, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported that the Monroe County Bar Association (Rochester, NY) presented the County Legislature with a set of recommendations to change the method by which the county’s public defender is selected.  Currently, the public defender is selected by direct appointment of the county legislature.  The proposal goes far toward compliance with national standards for the selection of the chief public defender.

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12:01 PM
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

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

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.  

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11:05 AM
Monday, May 9, 2011

Lawmakers across country examine the costs of indigent defense

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.

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12:42 PM
Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A lack of independence in Georgia’s public defense system

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.”

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11:53 AM
Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NY Chief Judge Sets Goal to Provide Counsel at Arraignments

“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.”

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12:29 PM
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

California county notes the value of a strong defense

On April 26, the Daily Democrat featured a guest column demonstrating the value of public defenders from the county administration’s perspective.  The public defender’s office in Yolo County, California, “in addition to representing people individually, also provides a system of checks and balances on the criminal justice system as a whole.  It guarantees that no agency -- whether that be the District Attorney's Office or a police department -- is allowed to operate unchallenged and unquestioned.  The Constitution is very much a reaction to the events that came before it.”

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10:54 AM