Washington, DC (March 15, 2013) – NACDL today releases a report revealing the woefully inadequate compensation rates received by assigned defense counsel across the fifty U.S. states. Prepared by NACDL’s Indigent Defense Counsel John Gross, Rationing Justice: The Underfunding of Assigned Counsel Systems documents the low rates paid to assigned counsel and how that results in defendants receiving inadequate representation. As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright on Monday, March 18, this report serves as a stark reminder that much work remains to secure the meaningful protection of Americans’ Sixth Amendment right to counsel.
NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin said: "When I talk to law students and young lawyers, many have a desire to practice criminal law. But when the rates barely cover the cost of overhead, not to mention student debt, young lawyers have no choice but to move away from criminal practice. Without adequate funding to the defense, the promise of Gideon rings hollow."
According to the report, assigned counsel compensation rates often fail to cover basic overhead costs. Because of this, attorneys who work on indigent defense cases often lose money in the process. On top of low hourly rates, more than half of all states have maximum compensation fees, with any additional hours of work going uncompensated.
The report reveals how many states use "flat fees," which result in attorneys receiving the same compensation, regardless of how much work they perform. In some places, attorneys are even paid based on the outcome of the case. Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit), actually pays assigned counsel $200 more for a guilty plea than for a dismissal.
As the report makes clear, the consequence of such fee structures is obvious: defendants do not receive the representation to which they are entitled. While some jurisdictions fund public defender offices, assigned counsel programs represent a significant portion of indigent defendants and are an essential component of an indigent defense delivery system.
In this report, NACDL documents how this severe and chronic underfunding is dangerous to the criminal justice system as a whole. According the NACDL’s Indigent Defense Counsel, and the author of this report, "The issue here is not just that assigned counsel deserve more money. When compensation rates are this low, private attorneys simply cannot afford to provide services to indigent defendants. Courts and the adversarial system cannot function without defense lawyers and the American people and our Constitution are paying the price."
Rationing Justice: The Underfunding of Assigned Counsel Systems is the first part of NACDL’s new study, Gideon at 50: A Three-Part Examination of Indigent Defense in America.
A link to the report and an audio introduction by its author are available here. And to learn more about NACDL’s work in this area and access additional resources, please visit www.nacdl.org/indigentdefense.
Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence: A Trial Strategy Guide
NACDL’s Pattern Cross-Examination for DNA and Biological Evidence will assist criminal defense practitioners in scoring points when cross-examining forensic experts in cases involving DNA and biological evidence. This resource contains thousands of questions that will help defense lawyers cross-examine challenging witnesses without reinventing the wheel with each new case. It includes pattern questions that can be used to dominate prosecution DNA experts and level the playing field at trial.
Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2nd Ed.) By James M. Shellow
Now in its second edition with some new material, James M. Shellow’s book offers what its title promises: ways of thinking about cross-examining the forensic analysts in drug cases. But the book is so much more than that. It offers a look inside the mind of one of the finest cross-examiners and defense lawyers the United States has produced in the last seventy years. This small book can inspire and direct you in making big changes in the way you defend your clients and think about the entire project of trying any case.
Justice For All, Justice Now White T-Shirt (Women’s)
This custom, vintage-faded NACDL t-shirt is 50% polyester, 25% cotton, and 25% rayon weighing 5.2 oz. and is lightwieght, flexible and soft, providing maximum comfort. It features the "Justice For All, Justice Now" slogan and Lady Liberty image on the front, with the NACDL logo on the back. Currently available in both men's and women's sizes in both black and white colors. View the full line-up of colors and sizes on our online store, as well as our other popular and best-selling t-shirt designs at: nacdl.org/store.
Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection - CD-ROM
NACDL’s Drug Cases Resource Materials Collection is the sweeping culmination of every single article of written materials ever published from each installment of NACDL's annual "Defending Modern Drug Cases" seminar. Totaling over 12,000 pages, this vast collection includes 12+ years of motions, briefs, reports, outlines, transcripts, case citations, scholarly articles, powerpoints and other written commentaries. This collection provides trial strategies and tactics you can immediately apply to your current cases.
Mental Illness & the Law: Addressing and Litigating Behavioral Health Disorders in Criminal Cases
Whether it is insanity, impairment, a disorder, or adolescent brain development; mental health and intellectual competence issues affect pretrial supervision, trial and sentencing, and your chances of successfully advocating for your impaired client. This training provides ideas and proven solutions to assist you in advocating for your client during trial, whether it be insanity defenses, jury selection, cross of expert witnesses, persuasion, or mitigation at sentencing.
Ivan J. Dominguez, Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or email@example.com.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.