Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Underrepresentation in Kentucky misdemeanor courts

“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.]

4:34 PM
Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gideon Alert: New Orleans DA questions appointed counsel for those who make bail

Bail is often posted by someone else on behalf of a defendant.  Another person may have all sorts of reasons for wanting to get the defendant out of jail.  For example, parents of an adult defendant may find themselves serving as caretaker for the defendant’s children while the defendant is in jail, or a defendant’s in-laws may want the defendant to get back to work to support the family.  But these people may not have a similar or any incentive to hire a lawyer to defend the charge against the defendant.  The assets of others cannot be considered in determining whether the defendant is indigent and entitled to a public lawyer, because others cannot be compelled to hire a lawyer for the defendant.  

10:48 AM
Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gideon Alert: Proposed Washington Supreme Court standards give focus to national caseload debate

On October 31, 2011, the public comment period closed on proposed Washington State Supreme Court standards that would implement many of the American Bar Association’s Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System.  These proposed standards have been long in the making.  The Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) Council on Public Defense developed the standards now being proposed for Supreme Court approval after months of seeking input from numerous stakeholders and interested parties.  Nonetheless, in the final days open for public comment, a flurry of opposition was mounted by local prosecutors, county and city policymakers, judges, the State Legislature, and even some public defense providers.  [All public comments are available on the Court’s website here].

4:16 PM
Thursday, October 20, 2011

Utah Court finds partially indigent have right to public funds for their defense

On October 17, 2011 the Salt Lake Tribune highlighted the potential impact of a recent Utah Supreme Court decision on county indigent defense budgets. In State v. Parduhn, the Court held: “local governments are statutorily required to provide an indigent defendant with funding for a necessary defense resource, even when the defendant is represented by private counsel.” 

12:21 PM
Monday, October 17, 2011

Gideon Alert: Pittsburgh symptomatic of Pennsylvania’s right to counsel problems

"[D]ysfunctional family life is rarely observed by individual family members, who are so entrenched in the process that they cannot really see it for what it is." Thus concludes Allegheny County Office of the Public Defender Assessment, a report by the Institute for Law & Policy Planning (L&PP). The study, commissioned by Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), explains why it is that public defense attorneys within deficient systems cannot understand the depth and breadth of the on-going, chronic right to counsel problems in their own jurisdiction.  Because of that, public defense attorneys often cannot fix their own systemic problems.  The L&PP report remained hidden from public view for over two years and only came to light through the committed effort of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) to get it released under Pennsylvania’s freedom of information laws.

11:38 AM
Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gideon Alert: Michigan takes first steps to fulfilling Gideon’s promise

On October 13, 2011, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder issued Executive Order No. 2011-12 establishing an Indigent Defense Advisory Commission (Commission).  The Commission is charged to make recommendations to the Governor and Legislature for statewide “improvements to the system of providing legal representation for indigent criminal defendants.”  The recommendations from the 14-member, bi-partisan Commission must ensure that: “indigent defense is free from undue political interference and conflicts of interest;” “the right to counsel is delivered by effective counsel at each critical stage of the proceedings in a manner that is consistent throughout the state;” and, “government-funded criminal defense lawyers are sufficiently trained and supervised, appropriately qualified, and adequately compensated.”  The Commission must meet their charge in a manner that is fiscally responsible and cost-effective, while being “responsive to jurisdictional variances and local community needs.” Findings and recommendations are due to the Legislature and Governor no later than July 15, 2012.

4:12 PM