Judges Have ‘Unchecked Power’ Over Legal Counsel For Poor Texans
In Texas, judges have oversight over the appointment and scheduling of court appointed attorneys for people who cannot afford to hire their own legal counsel. How does this affect the quality of representation for economically disadvantaged Texans?
Federal law lets states decide how to appoint and pay for lawyers for the poor, and Texas leaves those decisions to its counties. Most rely on contracts with private lawyers, who are paid a modest fee. Some turn to public defender's offices, the majority of which are underfunded and swamped with cases.
What needs to change to ensure all Texans, regardless of financial status, get a fair chance in court?
- Neena Satija, investigative reporter for The Washington Post and former reporter for the Texas Tribune; her article "How the Unchecked Power of Judges Is Hurting Poor Texans" appears in the September issue of Texas Monthly and on the Texas Tribune
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*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, August 28.