« Notable new push to push for expanded use of compassionate release programs | Main | Fascinating look at sentencing mitigation videos (and advocacy film festival) »

December 9, 2017

"Make or Buy? The Provision of Indigent Defense Services in the U.S"

I blogged here in August 2016 about an interesting draft paper authored by Yotam Shem-Tov then titled "Public Defenders vs. Private Court Appointed Attorneys: An Investigation of Indigent Defense Systems."  The draft sought to empirically examine different outcomes for defendants assigned different types of counsel.  The authored of that draft emailed me today to report that the paper is now "much more complete" compared to the prior noted draft.  The revised paper, available here via SSRN, is now going by the title that is the title of this post, and here is the new abstract:

U.S. courts provide constitutionally mandated legal services to indigent defendants via private court-appointed attorneys and public defenders' organizations.  I investigate the relative efficacy of these two modes of indigent defense by comparing outcomes of co-defendants assigned either a public defender or a private court-appointed attorney within the same case. Using data from San Francisco and federal district courts, I argue and show empirically that in multiple defendant cases public defender assignment is as good as random. Estimates show that public defenders reduce the probability of any prison sentence by 22%, as well as the length of prison by 10%.

Interestingly, as noted in a prior post, the early draft's abstract indicated a finding that "defendants assigned a public defender in co-defendant cases had slightly worse outcomes."  But then, as blogged here in January 2017, the author can to the inverse conclusion after checking his data and receiving feedback about his draft analysis.  And now it seems that, after finalizing the numbers, the author has seemingly concluded once-and-for-all that his data show that public defendants generally producing better outcomes than private court-appointed attorneys.

Prior related posts:

December 9, 2017 at 06:14 PM | Permalink


"U.S. courts provide constitutionally mandated legal services to indigent defendants..."

No part of the constitution does that. Only the hierarchy of the criminal cult enterprise mandates, worthless, government make work jobs for donut chomping, coffee slurping worthless rent seekers.

Pro se criminal litigants, devoid of a high school education outperform both groups. I am not reading this trash until there is a pro se comparison group. There never will be, because of the certain outcomes.

Posted by: David Behar | Dec 9, 2017 6:52:02 PM

In my 25 years as a private federal practitioner, I agree. In multi-defendant cases, FPD's do get better results. Why? Because FPD's get appointed to the first person charged in the multi-defendant case. Almost inevitably, the first person makes a deal to cooperate. Rarely does any subsequent cooperator get a better deal than the initial cooperator.

Posted by: ? | Dec 9, 2017 9:29:30 PM

?. So, you bring the plea offer. Why can't the prosecutor just email the offer, provide plain English explanations, and candid legal implications, and save the taxpayer some money? Prosecutors have dozens of professional and statutory duties to defendants, in the Rules of Conduct, of Evidence, of Criminal Procedure, and in the common law. Their professionalism, and enforcement of the rules when they fail to carry out their duties, can replace you.

I am interested in learning more about the value you bring.

Posted by: David Behar | Dec 9, 2017 11:13:47 PM

Public defenders, aka Maynard G. Krebs, by and large are indolent. Check the usual plea agreements they make with a minimalist review of the records, facts, or that other thing...the law.

Posted by: FluffyRoss | Dec 10, 2017 10:47:29 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB