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Fair Defense Report: Findings and Recommendations on Indigent Defense Practices in Texas

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2000
47 pages
This Fair Defense Report presents findings and recommendations on indigent defense practices in Texas and describes the methodology of the study.
Findings are divided into sections according to indigent defense representation in non-capital felonies and misdemeanors, capital offenses, offenses by defendants with mental illness, and the representation of indigent juveniles in juvenile court. Based on the findings, 46 recommendations are presented. In September 2000, the Judicial Section of the State Bar of Texas adopted a resolution that specifies recommended policies and procedures for achieving the goal of quality representation to indigent persons involved in the criminal justice system. The researchers for this report support four of these recommendations. One recommendation is that the appointment of criminal defense counsel for indigent defendants and the amounts paid to counsel should be reported to an appropriate State agency. Second, appointment procedures should be reduced to writing, and copies should be sent to an appropriate entity for dissemination. Third, minimum standard for proficiency in criminal law should be established in each local jurisdiction as a prerequisite for eligibility for placement on a list of attorneys eligible for appointments. Fourth, funding for appointed counsel and related services should be appropriated by the Texas Legislature from State funds, and the Legislature should adopt compensation standards. In developing the findings and the recommendations, the Appleseed Fair Defense Project conducted systematic information gathering and analysis in a representative sample of 23 Texas counties that contained 61 percent of the State's population. At each site, researchers spoke directly with the people who best knew the indigent defense system in the county, i.e., the judges, court administrators, county officials, defense counsel, and prosecutors who are responsible for the daily operation of indigent defense in that county and representatives of the affected communities. Appended list of counties involved in the study, a summary of survey results on indigent criminal defense expenditure by county, comparison of State indigent defense expenditures, and indigent defense representation in capital cases: a State-by-State comparison