Saturday, August 30, 2014

New reporting on TX indigent counsel to take effect

New reporting deadlines for criminal defense attorneys and counties take effect this fall when the final elements of HB 1318 take effect beginning Sept. 1. The forthcoming data will shed some new light on indigent defense caseloads, but IMO won't be detailed or probative enough to measure how caseloads relate to outcomes. Still, it's something. First,
not later than October 15 of each year and on a form prescribed by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission [TIDC], submit to the county information, for the preceding fiscal year, that describes the percentage of the attorney's practice time that was dedicated to work based on appointments accepted in the county under this article and Title 3, Family Code.
Then, section 6 of the bill requires that:
Not later than November 1 of each year and in the form and manner prescribed by the commission, each county shall prepare and provide to the commission information that describes for the preceding fiscal year the number of appointments under Article 26.04, Code of Criminal Procedure, and Title 3, Family Code, made to each attorney accepting appointments in the county, and information provided to the county by those attorneys under Article 26.04(j)(4), Code of Criminal Procedure.
Then, the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) must publish a statewide report summarizing the data by the end of the year.

Here's a short summary (pdf) of TIDC's implementation of HB 1318, a copy of the (very minimalist) form (pdf) attorneys must fill out, and a presentation (pdf) by TIDC from February on the new reporting requirements. TIDC also has produced an "optional attorney practice time work sheet" (pdf) but one (perhaps cynically) doubts many attorneys will volunteer the (slightly) more detailed data. We'll know before the new year.

Via the Legislative Reference Library. See prior Grits coverage.


Anonymous said...

It's a pity that the bar/TIDC have not done more to get the word out on this requirement. It was the subject of some recent discussion on the TCDLA listserv, but I strongly suspect that a high proportion of those taking appointments are still completely ignorant of the duty that's been imposed on them, because there does not seem to have been an official mechanism to bring it to their attention.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Perhaps they assumed everybody reads Grits? And that I'd see this brief blurb at the Legislative Reference Library and blog about it.

Anonymous said...

Indigent but afloat in cash?

When they burglarize your house do they itemize their haul and conscientious report this income to the IRS? Do cocaine dealers and other criminals operate "under the table" or do they claim their actual income when they claim to be indigent.

This is rich--they keep the loot they get from your house and punk you again by forcing you to pay for their defense (you may even be defending them against their burglary of your house!).

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Do you have a point, 7:54, or just a rant? There's a constitutional right to counsel. Would you do away with it? How?

Anonymous said...

I am a criminal defense attorney. I applaud the efforts to have higher standards for court-appointed attorneys and think collecting data from their perspective is valuable.

What I find ironic is increasing requirements and reporting, yet providing no more money for the time expended.

Court-appointed counsel is already woefully underpaid to the point of being laughable, so setting a higher bar for performance and demanding more from them won't achieve the noble goals.

The simple fact is this: unless court-appointed attorneys are paid more, you will keep getting the level of representation you already see. For many attorneys, it's a matter of economic survival to give short shrift to their indigent clients, especially when the bulk of those lawyers' practices are court-appointed cases.

Anonymous said...

The whole indigent counsel concern is a joke.
After finding a person to be indigent and appointing indigent counsel, criminal defense lawyers then proceed to advise client to say yes to every fee that can be levied against an offender. Something strange about being eligible for indigent counsel but able to pay 10,000 per month in Office of Court Administration Costs???