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The Source: Too Many Cases For Justice, Public Defenders Get New Guidance In Texas

Flickr/SalFalko (CC BY-NC 2.0) http://bit.ly/2HJ1qxP

The Texas Indigent Defense Commission issued new guidelines for the case-loads of public defenders last week. It was the first time the Commission has offered any such guidelines. Before this, many public defender's offices relied on the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice, which was proposed in 1973.

The differences between the two are dramatic, and if a county adopts the new guidelines, it may need to add staff and raise the amount they pay to private attorneys that do public defense work.

The Commission issued new guidelines as part of a study of case-loads across the state, which was mandated by the 83rd Texas Legislature. Their findings were that the number of cases that people were taking was far over the capacity of a person to effectively represent the client. 

From the report:

The problems in providing criminal defense representation for the indigent in state courts across America are well documented. Due to lack of funding, there are inadequate investigative, expert, and other support services; poor compensation for public defenders and private lawyers; insufficient lawyer training; and poor oversight and supervision of defense providers. But of all the difficulties, none has proven more vexing than outrageously high caseloads of public defenders and even sometimes private lawyers.

We take a look at the new guidelines, their possible impacts and what the future holds for Public Defense in Texas

  • Richard Dulaney, interim chief of the public defender's office for Bexar County
  • Rebecca Bernhardt, executive director of the Texas Fair Defense Project
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive