By Christopher Zoukis The Eighth Circuit ruled on September 15, 2016, in a per curiam opinion, that the Sixth Amendment’s right to a speedy trial is essentially not applicable to prisoners held in administrative segregation pending criminal charges. Rashad A. Wearing was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City, Arkansas in April 2013…Read More
It began last year during an investigation of contraband smuggling into the Leavenworth Detention Center, a privately run federal prison in Kansas operated by CoreCivic, formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America. During that investigation, a federal prosecutor in Kansas City told a private defense lawyer she could not lawfully represent a Leavenworth inmate,…Read More
By Joe Watson
Some states may soon be doing more to guarantee the Sixth Amendment right to counsel for indigent criminal defend-ants.
Special commissions have been convened in Nevada, Idaho, Michigan and Pennsylvania to investigate how flat-fee contracts with private defense attorneys are failing defendants who can’t afford to hire counsel. Meanwhile, some courts are weighing whether the practice of flat-fee indigent defense is unconstitutional.
According to Stateline, the news service of The Pew Center on the States, more than a dozen states use flat-fee contract attorneys to represent indigent defendants in order to save money and provide relief to swamped public defenders’ offices. However, critics argue that such “contract counsel” tend to be young, inexperienced, penurious and overwhelmed by their own caseloads; thus, the supposed savings effectively subsidize backlogged appellate courts and state prisons filled with poorly-represented defendants.
“This type of contract creates a direct financial conflict of interest between the attorney and the client,” said David Carroll, research director at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. “Because the lawyer will be paid the same amount, no matter how much or how little he works on each case, it is in the lawyer’s personal interest to devote as little time as possible to each appointed case.”
In Jackson County, Michigan, for example, contract attorneys are paid a paltry $600 flat fee per case to defend indigent clients accused of second-degree and Class A through D felonies, and only $350 per case for lesser felonies. In Lyon County, Nevada, 200 indigent defense felony cases and 400 misdemeanor cases were contracted out to a first-year lawyer who had passed his bar exam only a few weeks earlier.Read More
By Christopher Zoukis In the last week, several intriguing articles and editorials have been published concerning the Supreme Court’s landmark 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright and the fundamental Sixth Amendment right to counsel in criminal proceedings. The New York Times ran the story “The Right to Counsel: Badly Battered at 50,” and USA Today…Read More