There is no one size fits all approach to public defense. Communities will have differing needs driven by factors such as geography, population, and caseload. However, there are core components necessary to ensure the defense function is able to fulfill its responsibilities to its clients and the community.
NACDL Works to Improve Public Defense Delivery Systems
- NACDL Resolution: For an Independent Federal Public Defender Agency (2016)
- NACDL Resolution: Restoration of Funding for Federal Indigent Defense (2013)
NACDL Resolutions Regarding Public Defense System Infrastructure
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Support for Hybrid Public Defense Delivery Systems (Oct. 2017).
Whenever the population and caseload needs support it, a public defense delivery system should include full-time institutional defenders as well as meaningful participation of private attorneys.
Selection and Qualifications for Public Defense Leadership (Feb. 2018)
Principles regarding the selection, retention, and removal of public defense system leadership include:
- Public defense leadership, management, and operations should be independent and insulated from control by actors whose interests may be directly or indirectly adverse to the public defense function;
- Public defense leadership, management, and operations should have a demonstrated commitment to and experience in:
- Delivering high quality effective, and zealous advocacy on behalf of public defense clients
- Confronting, addressing, and working to eliminate racial disparity and bias in the criminal justice system;
- Promoting and supporting high standards in individual advocacy on behalf of clients and/or for the operation of public defense systems; and
- Advocating for the public defense function within the relevant governance structure to secure necessary funding, staffing, resources, and organizational independence.
- Those directly involved in the selection, retention, and removal of public defense leadership, management, and operations should be committed to the public defense function and should represent the diversity of the community served by the public defense provider.
Other Resources on Public Defense Infrastructure
- Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System, ABA
- Basic Data Every Defender Program Needs to Track, NLADA
- A Fair Fight: Achieving Indigent Defense Resource Parity, Brennan Center for Justic
- American Council of Chief Defenders
- National Association for Public Defense
- National Legal Aid & Defender Association
- Sixth Amendment Center
Defender Standards of Practice
- ABA Criminal Justice Standards for the Defense Function
- Massachusetts Assigned Counsel Manual
- Texas Performance Guidelines for Non-Capital Representation
- Virginia Standards of Practice for Indigent Defense Counsel
- Washington Supreme Court Standards for Indigent Defense
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