ABA Ten Principles Of a Public Defense Delivery System
Approved by American Bar Association House of Delegates, February 2002. The American Bar Association recommends that jurisdictions use these Principles to assess promptly the needs of public defense delivery systems and clearly communicate those needs to policy makers.
The public defense function, including the selection, funding, and payment of defense counsel, is independent
The public defense function should be independent from political influence and subject to judicial supervision only in the same manner and to the same extent as retained counsel. To safeguard independence and to promote efficiency and quality of services, a nonpartisan board should oversee defender, assigned counsel, or contract systems. Removing oversight from the judiciary ensures judicial independence from undue political pressures and is an important means of furthering the independence of public defense. The selection of the chief defender and staff should be made on the basis of merit, and recruitment of attorneys should involve special efforts aimed at achieving diversity in attorney staff.
Where the caseload is sufficiently high, the public defense delivery system consists of both a defender office and the active participation of the private bar.
The private bar participation may include part-time defenders, a controlled assigned counsel plan, or contracts for services. The appointment process should never be ad hoc, but should be according to a coordinated plan directed by a full-time administrator who is also an attorney familiar with the varied requirements of practice in the jurisdiction. Since the responsibility to provide defense services rests with the state, there should be state funding and a statewide structure responsible for ensuring uniform quality statewide.