2012 -- Massachusetts
Massachusetts House of Representatives Post Audit and Oversight Bureau
ABSTRACT & CITATION
This report by the Massachusetts House of Representatives’ House Post Audit and Oversight (HPAO) Bureau primarily recommends that the Commonwealth save around $10 million from its $200 million public defense budget by not appointing counsel for misdemeanor cases where no jail time is sought. This change in policy is proposed to be implemented through a revision to a section of the Massachusetts General Laws. The HPAO Bureau had been tasked to review spending on indigent defense by focusing on (1) the use of Massachusetts law that provides for a decriminalization motion for certain misdemeanors, thereby removing the possibility of incarceration and the appointment of defense counsel; (2) the availability of other forms of diversion from criminal court proceedings; (3) the process for indigence verification and the incidence of fraud or inefficiency in that process; and (4) the work of the Massachusetts Civil Infractions Commission. This report thoroughly describes the HPAO Bureau’s investigative methodology, which relied heavily on cooperation with the Civil Infractions Commission, the Administrative Office of the Trial Court, and the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association. The Bureau repeatedly stresses the need for the Commonwealth to develop the capacity to collect reliable statistics in order to accurately identify potential cost savings; it found some of its assigned tasks impossible to complete because of the lack of such capacity. With these limitations stipulated, the extensive data the HPAO did manage to collect is presented in this report. The report concludes by summarizing the approaches that other states in New England and around the country have taken to balancing budget constraints against the constitutional mandate for indigent defense.
Massachusetts House of Representatives, House Post Audit and Oversight Bureau. (2012). Fair and Cost Effective: Ensuring an Adequate Defense while Protecting the Taxpayers; Review of the Indigent Defense Counsel Program in Massachusetts District and Boston Municipal Courts, Administrative Office of the Trial Court, Commonwealth of Massachusetts: Preliminary Report . Boston, Mass.: Commonwealth of Massachusetts, House Post Audit and Oversight Bureau.Topics: Caseloads, Eligibility Requirements, Funding, Misdemeanors, Salaries, State Court Decisions, Supreme Court Decisions, Training
Last revised: June 9, 2015 4:53 pm