NLADA studied a rural Parish in Louisiana -- Avoyelles Parish --to understand how public defense services were provided in non-urban jurisdictions. This 2004 report finds that, in direct violation of state and federal constitutions, Louisiana government had constructed a disparate system that fostered systemic ineffective assistance of counsel due primarily to inadequate funding and a lack of independence from undue political interference.
NLADA began work in the winter of 2002 to develop a new assessment methodology that would help such programs incorporate national standards, including the ABA 10 Principles, and improve program performance while providing some access to national expertise. This evaluation of the Santa Clara County Public Defender was the first "pilot" assessment using that methodology. In recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Gideon decision, in 2003 NDLI issued the Gideon Leadership Award of Excellence in recognition of contributions to the field of indigent defense management and leadership. Mr. Jose Villarreal received the Gideon Award in June of this year, for his leadership and innovation in the field of indigent defense. This report is additional evidence that the recognition was well deserved.
NLADA was contracted to evaluate current practices and recommend alternatives for improving the efficient use of attorneys and staff in the Clark County Public Defender Office (CCPDO) of Las Vegas, Nevada. This 2003 report determined that the majority of the problems preventing the office from providing adequate representation in an effective and cost-efficient manner were created in years past, creating a longstanding institutional culture that placed a priority on attorney autonomy over the collective health of the organization.
Venango County retained NLADA in 2001 to conduct a standards-based assessment of its public defender system. This report details the findings of that assessment. The public defense system fails to meet national standards, including the ABA Ten Principles, and the public defender office itself falls far short of nationally recognized performance guidelines. NLADA was impressed with the desire on the part of county, court and other criminal justice officials in Venango County to address the issues raised in the report. Their desire to correct indigent defense issues extended beyond a simple attempt to stem a lawsuit (threatened by the ACLU and NACDL). Unfortunately, Venango County, while truly aiming to resolve its ongoing constitutional crisis, has in the years since the 2001 assessment continued to find itself completely incapable of meeting the state's obligations which have been delegated to it.
Through a grant from the Open Society Institute, in 2001 NLADA brought together an advisory committee to decide on a concrete plan for training sessions to be offered to defender leaders and managers at all levels of expertise and specifically including the needs of assigned counsel and contract laywers. This is the report of that committee, which became the foundational document that launched the National Defender Leadership Institute (NDLI).