Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Legislation in Senate committee would overhaul Task Force on Indigent Defense

State Sen. Rodney Ellis has a substantive bill up today in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, SB 170, which I'm told would implement recommendations from the legislative working group of the Task Force on Indigent Defense - basically overhauling and renaming the agency.

The bill provocatively includes in its caption the "reorganization of funding sources for indigent defense," so I'm sure a lot of folks at the county level are paying close attention. I haven't had time to read and digest it myself, but here's a bill analysis I received from Sen. Ellis' office describing the contents of the committee substitute. Also, the good folks at the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition forwarded me a copy of Ana YaƱez Correa's testimony to the committee on the subject, which I've uploaded here, for those interested in more detail. And here's a brief summary from the Task Force on Indigent Defense.

FWIW, I still don't understand exactly what is a "private defender" - an indigent defense system formalized in the legislation - or how it works differently from assigned counsel, but that's why these bills get hearings, so all that stuff can be publicly discussed.


spritely said...

"And here's a brief summary from the Task Force on Indigent Defense."

Oops broken link.

Thanks for post though, I had no idea there was going to be a substantial change.

Jefe said...

The "private defender" is based on a model in Seattle. I spoke to its proponent, Professor Robert Boruchowitz, at the indigent Defense Summit last week. it sounds like it works well there. A separate non-profit acts as assigned counsel in indigent cases that the defender does not take. However, I can see this as devolving into a contract system (lowest bidder), so there needs to be some real quality control implemented, especially in small counties.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the "private defender" being proposed is based on a model from San Mateo County, CA. The county would contract with an outside organization (Usually the local county bar) who is given x amount of dollars to administer the program. The organization then oversees the private attorneys who get cases, the billing, and performance.

The attorneys who are part of the program are in private practice, and contract to take the cases as they do with the "assigned counsel" program. The main difference is the Judge's are no longer directly involved on the administrative end, but still maintain oversight.

It is not a panacea for the State, just merely another option that is probably best suited for large and possibly mid-size counties.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks spritely, I fixed the link.

Anonymous said...

I get tired of the career criminal. As soon as he's out of prison he's at it again. No matter how much he steals, he claims he's indigent. Why is it we never consider all the money he got from selling drugs? He wont admit to his bankroll so we believe he's indigent?

Anonymous said...

He don't spend all his bankroll on dope and hos. There's enough left over to pay for his own lawyer.

I'veGotNoUseForThe LonghornCow said...

Anonymous, the lastw two of you.

You both must be prison guards who are sad and sorry that you make less money than most offenders who DO turn their lives around upon release.

The ones who are selling drugs and making lots of money DO have the money for attorneys and end up getting FAR FAR less time with you pathetic souls than those who are indigent. Now I know you're gonna call me a crack smoking carreer criminal with bad teeth, but you will not hide the fact that you are sorry desperate souls who log on here to discourage people who make posts about the civil and criminal injustices you mete out an a daily basis as a substitute for the hole in your souls that aren't whole. I think all anonymous posts should be called CO-V, angry at themselves for not finishing high school.

The truth is, you take a tiny cross section of what you perceive as your own misgiuided asinine assumptions and make that the whole of the criminal justice system. While I, met people there who should truly die inside for what they've done, this state is ridiculous. I hope there is some kind of reform to the judges picking their own indigent criminal defense lawyers. So say you, eliminate indigent defense, and return to a dickensian or pre magna carta system? Get real.

I'veGotNoUseForTheLonghornCow said...

Oh wait, those words are too complex for the average anonymous poster who will now sign his posts, "Charles"
or "John"

Those of you who are more educated please forgive my punctuational mistakes, since I didn't go to the windham school district and received an actual four year degree in the actual world and am not a prison guard. I just type really fast in disgust at these idiotic people who are either here playing the average texan, or devil's advocate to put it more nicely, or are truly that misguided and uneducated? Do you read this blog that you post on blindly, DO you????
Expletive (plural),
Expletive off!

Anonymous said...

Grits, On the "Private Defender" concept - there are some jurisdictions, Like Washington DC, where law school clinics take on cases with 3rd years supervised by licensed attorneys/professors. Usually they only take on misdemeanors and juvenile cases. The DC Law Students in Court program is a good example. www.dclawstudents.org/

With all the cash, and eager free talent, law schools like UT, SMU, UH, STCL, St. Marys, Baylor and the like have on hand their commitment to practical education through clinics, and to the communities they allegedly serve, has been pathetic through the years.

STCL has a long-standing family law clinic and social security benefits clinic in Houston, but in a community that, until very recently, had no public defender the lack of a criminal law clinic by STCL and UH is criminal in and of itself.


I'veGotNoUseForTheLonghorn Cow said...

Thank you,
these are the kind of comments that make this blog what it's known for, a forum for rational discussion among people genuinely concerned with CHANGE, the C word in Texas, in our perverse criminal justice system, on all fronts, not just good-ole-boy tdcj guard types who make ridiculous blanket statements that are panaceas in their minds, to the criminal justice problems plaguing this state. It needs real examination, fresh independent oversight, and... you know what I'm saying. Thank you, previous poster, for not coming on and respondin, "ten hoe, work time" to my comments. Although i've been there on the wrong side, i feel that my education and IQ surpass 99% of the people I met there in either capacity. I'm no einstein, but the people who work for the department are the kind who've never read another book since dropping out of high school. In the federal system, Many of these simply ridiculous problems at the correctional end are solved by a higher caliber of employee. that means mor money though. Catch-22
Thanks again for some fresh input.

austex1151 said...

One quick note: Though I cannot quote the source(I don't have that good a memory), I read recently that the "average" drug dealer makes about $200 a week.Hardly a princely sum.

People tend to use the term loosely. In truth, most drug dealers are just small timers who sell mainly to friends and known persons, enough to cover their own use. The big guys make lots of money, can pay high dollar attorneys, and do less time than the little schmuck.

As to public defenders, when I worked in the federal prison system and in the local county jail, I witnessed a lot of PD's. Here most are appointed by the judge based on random reasons and often serendipity. They get paid far less for the case than for their other clients. So the typical PD showed up about 20 minutes before a hearing or the trial itself, glanced over the file, and then cut a quick deal with the prosecutor (A deal more intended to cut his money losses than in the interests of his client.) There are good lawyers who work hard for an indigent client, but it's a distinct minority. The result is people being forced to take pleas in cases in which they are actually innocent, because if you don't take the deal you get the max if you lose in court, where you lawyer already has shown his indifference. And prosecutors tend to overcharge in order to further force acceptance of pleas, guilty or not.

Anonymous said...


There is a new Caprock Regional Public Defender, that is based out of Dickens county. It is staffed by third year Tech law students, under the guidance of licensed attorneys, and will be representing indigent persons charged with misdemeanors over a large number of rural counties in the panhandle and south plains area.