Bar Association's guidelines for public defenders
The American Bar Association has developed 10 principles for a good public defense system. In their latest annual report, officials with the Missouri State Public Defender Commission ranked themselves on how they're meeting those principles.
1. The public defense function, including the selection, funding and payment of defense counsel, is independent. (A).
2. When the caseload is sufficiently high, the public defense delivery system consists of both a defender office and the active participation of the private bar. (F).
3. Clients are screened for eligibility, and defense counsel is assigned and notified of appointment as soon as feasible after client's arrest, detention or request for counsel. (C-).
4. Defense counsel is provided sufficient time and a confidential space within which to meet with the client. (D).
5. Defense counsel's workload is controlled to permit the rendering of quality representation. (F).
6. Defense counsel's ability, training and experience match the complexity of the case. (C+).
7. The same attorney continuously represents the client until the completion of the case. (B).
8. There is parity between defense counsel and the prosecution with respect to resources, and defense counsel is included as an equal partner in the justice system. (MSPD filled in a question mark).
9. Defense counsel is provided with and required to attend continuing legal education. (A).
10. Defense counsel is supervised and systematically reviewed for quality and efficiency according to nationally and locally adopted standards. (C).
Several reports have sought to tackle the overwhelming problems facing public defenders in Missouri. While all indicate some sort of issue within the public defender system, none have agreed on a solution.
Some of the most-often referenced studies include:
- Assessment of the Missouri State Public Defender System by the Spangenberg Group
- Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System by the American Bar Association
- Public Defender Offices, 2007 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics
- Missouri Senate Interim Committee report on the Missouri State Public Defender System
- Opinion of the Missouri Supreme Court in Pratte decision
Go to News-Leader.com to see each of these reports.
The Missouri Public Defender's Commission uses the Federal Poverty Guidelines to determine whether a client is eligible for a public defender.
A person making $11,000 a year would not qualify for a public defender under the current strict guidelines, but other items are factored in.
For instance, whether that person is a student, receives child support, has car or credit card payments and loans also is factored into the indigency determination.
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