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Ethical Issues in Indigent Defense: The Continuing Crisis of Excessive Caseloads
By Steven N. Yermish
A client is a client, whether privately retained or court-appointed. The ethical rules relevant to representing an accused in a criminal court in this country apply equally to the attorney for the wealthy and the indigent. Yet, there are certain ethical issues that particularly arise in the representation of the indigent accused. And one such issue has probably become the foremost in criminal practice today.
Much has been written about the chronic underfunding of indigent criminal defense in the United States. In the face of severe government revenue shortfalls, indigent defense has been a favorite target for cost savings at the expense of the constitutional rights of the poor in our courtrooms. This situation has resulted in lower salaries and a higher turnover rate among young public defenders, outrageously excessive caseloads, and a lack of crucial resources such as expert witnesses, investigative services, and mitigation and disposition specialists. For the criminal defense attorney
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