2012 -- NATIONAL LEVEL
Federal Sentencing Reporter
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ABSTRACT & CITATION
In a 2010 article, Heather Baxter, the author of this piece, discussed how economic downturn had crippled public defenders by simultaneously diminishing their resources and expanding their client base. This article revisits this issue in terms of the ethical implications of this budget strain. The Model Rules of Professional Conduct demand a quality of representation that is impossible for public defenders to maintain; inability to devote time and money to cases reduces defender competency, while cost-saving flat-fee contracts create conflicts of interest. The American Bar Association has attempted to address the ethical quandary of defenders through Ethical Opinion 07-441, but here Baxter critiques their proffered solutions for controlling their caseloads as unrealistic. Even if attorneys were willing to admit their incompetence to their supervisors or go above their supervisors for relief, she argues, courts have largely been unwilling to allow defenders to reject new cases. Baxter states that the only way to satisfy ethical requirements is to provide more funding for indigent defense, but then describes the political forces that can impede such a solution. She finally concludes that “the only real solution that will have a long-lasting effect is a total reform of the criminal justice system in America,” and a shift from “tough on crime” to “smart on crime” policies.
Baxter, H. (December 2012). Too Many Clients, Too Little Time: How States are Forcing Public Defenders to Violate Their Ethical Obligations. Federal Sentencing Reporter. 25, 2, 91-102.Topics: Caseloads, Ethical and Professional Responsibilities, Funding
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Last revised: June 12, 2015 11:48 am