Excessive Defender Caseloads Deprive Citizens of Competent Representation
Statement of President John Wesley Hall, National Assn. of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Washington, DC (September 3, 2008) -- The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), through its indigent defense project, is concerned about the crisis in indigent defense, in Florida and nationwide. NACDL agrees with the Miami-Dade, FL, circuit court’s assessment that “the caseload of the felony public defenders in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit . . . far exceeds any recognized standard for the maximum number of felony cases a criminal defense attorney should handle annually.”
In light of Judge Stanford Blake’s decision to partially relieve the Miami-Dade Public Defender Office from future appointments in certain felony cases due to too many case assignments, NACDL President John Wesley Hall John Wesley Hall, a noted expert in legal ethics and author, issued the following statement:
The Bill of Rights guarantees every person accused of a crime the right to a lawyer, not just a warm body. No matter how brilliant and dedicated the attorney, if the attorney is given too large a workload, counsel will not be able to provide her clients with the representation they are owed under the Sixth Amendment.
Any public defender who has a reasonable belief that his caseload has become so excessive as to endanger his clients has an ethical duty to seek relief from future appointments from the court. Today’s decision is not a solution to a growing crisis. The legislature needs to face the fact that it is pay now or pay dearly later.