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September 16, 2008

New Brennen Center report on court-appointed defense counsel

I just received this notice via e-mail:

Today the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law releases a new report, "Eligible for Justice," exposing the lack of standards for determining who is eligible for court-appointed defense counsel. In a national study, the Brennan Center found that many jurisdictions use flawed screening processes to separate those who can afford counsel from those who cannot, and as a result are denying government-funded defense counsel to people who should receive it.  The report covers unfair practices in effect in states including Florida, Tennessee, Ohio, and Nebraska, and highlights best practices in others, like Massachusetts, Washington, and Vermont.

More details about the report (and a link to a summary and the full documents) can be accessed at this link.  Here is a summary of how the report culminates in recommendations: 

In this report, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law presents information about best practices for determining financial eligibility for free counsel. The report gathers, in one place, existing standards and procedures, relevant judicial precedent, and the specific views of many defenders in communities around the country. The report then makes six recommendations.

September 16, 2008 at 11:50 AM | Permalink


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If someone wants to take their chances with an attorney paid for by the government I don't see how there can be any legitimate cutoff. Why should someone be forced to choose between destitution and representation?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 16, 2008 12:23:47 PM

Most times there is no choice.

When the Feds strike, they don't just indict, they also seize and freeze. And if a federal Defendant can pay for his own attorney, then he must be hiding assets that the Feds didn't know about. At least that's how it is in Cincinnati.

They very last thing they want is to face an experienced well-paid attorney for the Defendant. So they resort to their bag of tricks and immediately pauperize the Defendant, alleging that any funds used/or will be used by the Defendant for legal fees were ill-gotten gains. Then they oppose your motion for a public defender.

What are your choices left? Get a public defender (if you can) and then plead guilty.

Welcome to the Beast. It must be fed.

Posted by: babalu | Sep 16, 2008 4:52:39 PM

In a lot of jurisdictions, it is simply better to go with a PD, if you can. If the PD is part of an institution, they are simply better equipped to handle a case than someone that has to deal with overhead themselves.

Babalu, You really need to provide citations as to when this happens. But, let me ask you this: When the feds have good evidence and the searches can't be attacked, do you expect NOT to plead guilty?

Posted by: s.cotus | Sep 16, 2008 5:54:37 PM

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