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By Malia Brink
Indigent Defense columns.
ABA Opinion Says PDs Must Address Caseloads
For public defenders, caseloads often seem beyond their control. The budget only allows for a certain number of attorneys, and every defendant who qualifies for assistance is sent to the PD office. Despite this lack of control, the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility recently determined that public defenders have an ethical obligation to keep their caseloads manageable. Ethical Opinion 06-441 concludes that if the size of the caseload begins to impinge on the public defender’s ability to represent her client competently, the public defender must take affirmative steps to reduce her caseload, including, if necessary, seeking relief in court.
The opinion begins by stating that public defenders are subject to the same ethical rules as attorneys working for paying clients. It goes on to note that, under the ethical rules, “[a]ll lawyers, including public defenders, have an ethical obligation to
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