Time to Update the ‘ABA Ten Principles’ For the 21st Century

In 2002 the American Bar Association House of Delegates approved the ABA Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System. Cited in court filings and mentioned by government officials, the Ten Principles have gone on to become the most influential policy statement about how indigent defense services should be provided. Professor Norman Lefstein believes that it is time to take a second look at the Ten Principles in order to (1) incorporate the most progressive thinking about how best to deliver indigent defense services and (2) revisit certain subjects in the current version that are neither sufficiently emphasized nor as clearly stated as they should be. Among other things, Professor Lefstein addresses inadequate funding, the need for persuasive data to convince appropriation authorities to fund indigent defense adequately, and procedures that enable defense programs to declare their unavailability to accept additional cases.