Page 16 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
P. 16

 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
 The Committee’s Review Process
To assess the quality of representation for indigent defendants in federal courts nationwide, this Committee held seven hearings around the country that drew 229 witnesses, nearly all of whom also submitted in-depth written testimony that totaled more than 2,300 pages. Federal defenders, panel attorneys, prosecutors, and judges from 78 of the 94 federal court districts—83 percent of all districts—testified before the Committee. Witnesses also included former public defense clients, circuit court judges, magistrate judges, nationally recognized advocates, representatives of the American Bar Association and other key professional groups, noted academics, and subject matter experts. The Committee conducted its own survey of panel attorneys to begin filling the glaring gap in data about their work, and reviewed hundreds of pages of reports and studies produced by others. Committee Members met 12 times in addi- tion to the hearings and, in meeting time alone, spent more than 200 hours working together to plan the review, organize and assess the overwhelming amount of informa- tion collected, discuss findings and recommendations, and produce this report.
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R E P O R T
O F
was not formed to rest on the laurels of history, and by the standard articulated
in MacKenna v. Ellis, justice continues to be rationed in federal courts around the country. While it has been decades since people charged with crimes—in many cases facing life-altering punishments—faced prosecutor, judge and jury alone, representation by a skilled and devoted advocate with sufficient resources to mount a vigorous defense is far from guaranteed. Indeed, the quality of defense appears to be highly uneven across the country and from case to case within districts.
Fully 90 percent of defendants in federal court cannot afford to hire their own attorney. Justice in their cases, and indeed the future course of their lives, depends on the quality of the system that provides lawyers to represent them. The subject of the Committee’s Report is the examination of that system’s successes and failures, as well as a course of action for improving it—findings and recommendations pre- sented in brief in this Executive Summary.
Before committing the significant time and effort required to undertake this study, most Committee members were unaware of the depth and scope of the prob- lems hindering administration of the Criminal Justice Act across the country and believed that small changes or gradual shifts in policy and practice would suffice.
Precisely because the current structure emphasizes local control, most people are only aware of what happens in the courtrooms where they practice. Such limited perspective is hardly new. Two years before Congress passed the Criminal Justice Act, editors from the Harvard Law Review researched the existing ad hoc approach to public defense.4 Looking across the country in 1962–1963 they saw glaring problems, yet the individual lawyers and judges interviewed for that study—fully 93 percent of
4 BruceJ.Havighurst&PeterMacDougall,Note,TheRepresentationsofIndigentCriminalDefendants in the Federal District Courts, 76 Harv. L. Rev. 579 (1963).
No recommendation presented herein represents T H E A D H O C C O M M I T T E E T O R E V I E W T H E C R I M I N A L J U S T I C E A C T the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United States unless approved by the Conference itself.






















































































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