News Release

Nation's Criminal Defense Bar Endorses Public Defender Office Leadership Standards; Calls on Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to Hire Qualified Public Defender

Washington, DC (Feb. 22, 2018) – At its midwinter meeting, NACDL’s Board of Directors adopted a resolution Concerning Public Defender Selection.

"It is increasingly clear that there is a critical need to preserve the independence of public defenders, whether local, state, or federal and whether full-time defenders or private lawyers appointed via an assigned counsel system. This resolution addresses the question of independence as relates to the selection of public defense administrators," said NACDL President Elect Drew Findling. "Consistent with NACDL's principles and standards for public defense leadership set forth in the resolution, the Association is deeply concerned regarding the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors' selection for interim Public Defender and calls upon the Board to act quickly in recruiting and hiring a Public Defender who has a demonstrated commitment to and experience in delivering high quality, effective, and zealous advocacy on behalf of public defense clients. The Association further urges the Board to assure that the person placed in this leadership role be given the independence needed to assure that she or he works to support the needs of the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office, its staff, and the clients entrusted to their care."

As explained in the resolution, independent and effective leadership of public defender offices and agencies is vital to assuring those accused receive the zealous and effective representation the Constitution requires. And those directly involved in the selection, retention, and removal of public defense leaders have a vital role to play in ensuring the independence of the defense function. Accordingly, the Association has officially endorsed the following principles and standards regarding the selection, retention, and removal of public defender system leadership:

  1. 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;
  2. Public defense leadership, management and operations should have a demonstrated commitment to and experience in (a) delivering high quality, effective, and zealous advocacy on behalf of public defense clients; (b) confronting, addressing, and working to eliminate racial disparity and bias in the criminal justice system; (c) promoting and supporting high standards in individual advocacy on behalf of clients and/or for the operation of public defense systems; and (d) Advocating for the public defense function within the relevant governance structure to secure necessary funding, staffing, resources, and organizational independence; and
  3. 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.

A link to the resolution is available here. And link to NACDL’s letter to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is available here.

To learn more about NACDL’s extensive work in the area of public defense, please visit www.nacdl.org/publicdefense

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Contacts

Ivan J. Dominguez, NACDL Director of Public Affairs & Communications, (202) 465-7662 or idominguez@nacdl.org 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.