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The Champion

May 2007 , Page 10 

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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 their clients.

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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