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Indigent Defense Reform in Virginia: A Long Road Well-Traveled
By Malia Brink
In the past month, indigent defense advocates heralded a breakthrough in
Virginia — the passage of a bill to make court-appointed counsel fee
caps waivable upon a showing of good cause. This critical legislation
means that for the first time ever in Virginia, judges can order
court-appointed counsel to be compensated for each hour necessary to
provide a defense. It eliminates the archaic statutory limit on the
number of hours of defense work court-appointed counsel could provide
and still be compensated, a limit which, for over 30 years, has
penalized attorneys who sought to provide full and vigorous counsel to
This legislation is the most recent in a series of improvements that
have been made over the last four years to Virginia’s historically
troubled indigent defense system. And while these reforms are not an
outright victory — Virginia’s indigent defense system is still far from
meeting national standards — they are a series of enormous st
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