13 August 2009

Criminal Litigation Still Cheap (Too Cheap?)

In one Texas county (Bexar), the average cost of public defenders per felony is $356.15. It appears that the average defendant in these cases spends 40 days in prison awaiting a disposition of his or her case.

In that county, "About 35% of misdemeanor court costs and 40% of felony district court costs stem from paying for indigent defense."

A comment at the post notes recent comments from Attorney General Eric holder at the 2009 ABA Convention in Chicago, Illinois, given on Monday, August 3, 2009:

I have also called upon the Department to focus on another part of the criminal justice system: the very difficult issue of indigent defense. Putting politics aside, we must address the fact that there is a crisis within our nation’s system of indigent defense. Resources for public defender programs lag far behind other justice system programs, constituting only about 3% of all criminal justice expenditures in our nation’s largest counties. In many cases, contract attorneys and assigned lawyers receive compensation that does not even cover their overhead. Defenders in many jurisdictions carry huge caseloads that make it difficult for them to fulfill their legal and ethical responsibilities to their clients. And we often hear of lawyers who cannot interview their clients properly, file appropriate motions, conduct fact investigations, or do many of the other things an attorney should be able to do as a matter of course.

Suffice it to say that I can't imagine handling any kind of case for $356.15.

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