Page 19 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
P. 19

 Under-Resourced and Unduly Constrained
It was beyond the scope of this Committee’s inquiry to review actual cases and
their outcomes, which would have been the best measure of quality of defense. In fact, given the paucity of government data such a review was simply impossible.
But there are compelling proxy measures of quality that this Committee consid- ered. If attorneys lack the resources and training to provide a zealous defense; if their caseloads are overwhelming; if they lack the genuine independence needed to make the best decisions on their clients’ behalf; then the quality of representation they provide is bound to suffer—not in every case but in far too many cases. This Committee found troubling signs that many panel attorneys in particular are indeed ill-equipped and insufficiently compensated; often without the resources or knowl- edge to hire experienced investigators, expert witnesses, and interpreters when a case requires such services; and lacking access to the level of training and guidance that both institutional public defenders and prosecutors have readily available.
In addition, both panel attorneys as well as institutional defenders are unduly constrained by the nature and degree of judicial oversight built into the Criminal Justice Act—and recent changes in Judicial Conference policy have neither clarified nor simplified the oversight burden on judges, constraining them as well.
On the whole, the judiciary has had the best intentions in administering the Criminal Justice Act, and individual judges and administrative leaders have been careful stewards of a system created to protect a crucial right. But they are operating within a fundamentally flawed administrative structure. Tasking—and indeed bur- dening—federal judges with the responsibility for managing the provision of public defense creates conflicts of interest and other serious impediments to genuine justice.
Those structural problems include giving the judiciary control over the defense budget; giving individual judges sole authority to appoint counsel and determine staffing levels at federal defender offices; and letting judges decide what, if any,
If attorneys...
lack the genuine independence needed to make the best decisions on their clients’ behalf, then the quality of representationthey provide is bound
to suffer—not in every case but in far too many cases.
No recommendation presented herein represents
the policy of the Judicial Conference of the United 2 0 1 7 R E P O R T O F 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 xvii
States unless approved by the Conference itself.
 





















































































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