Page 246 - Ad Hoc Report June 2018
P. 246

 202 2 0 1 7
Olson-Gault, told the Committee that without qualified CJA counsel readily available to be appointed, “at least half the work” of her project to assist in finding represen- tation for defendants in post-conviction proceedings is now dedicated to “recruit- ing law firms to take post-conviction cases, state and federal. It is enormously time consuming and difficult and getting law firms to sign onto these cases is incredibly hard and we are often unsuccessful.”952 In her testimony, Ms. Olson-Gault referenced a large law firm in Alabama that told her it had received a call from the chief of the Alabama Supreme Court essentially begging the firm to take death penalty cases pro bono. “It had come to that...that there was not a readily-available pool of volunteer lawyers to do this.”953
Those within the criminal justice system told the Committee that they were deeply concerned about their continuing ability to appoint experienced counsel to federal habeas cases. One federal judge testified that she was particularly concerned about the lack of new, younger attorneys pursuing this line of work. “Most of the people who we appoint are my age or older, and they’re retiring, they’re not going to continue to accept these cases.”954 And Ms. Friedman told the Committee that the burden on offices dedicated to taking capital habeas cases was becoming too great; the offices were concerned about their own staffing and resources. “[A] lawyer I’m very fond of who runs a Capital Habeas Unit says [that] when he hears that I’m on the phone he picks up the phone and says ‘no.’ It’s true. Where do we go?...I liter- ally don’t know where I’m going to go when the next cases come.”955
Caseloads and Quality Representation
Witnesses told distressing stories about what happens in the growing number of cases in which a highly qualified attorney is not available. As one witness said,
counsel are often appointed who do not provide effective representation. The results are disastrous for their clients. In at least ten Texas capital habeas cases, lawyers have missed the statute of limitations—includ-
ing one Houston lawyer who missed the deadline in three cases. The lawyer who missed three deadlines continued to receive federal capital habeas appointments until a reporter interviewed the Chief Judge of the Southern District at the time, who had been unaware of the problem.956
952 EmilyOlson-Gault,Director,ABADeathPenaltyRepresentationProject,Public Hearing—Birmingham, Ala., Panel 4, Tr., at 25.
953 Id.at25.
954 JudgeMarciaCrone,E.D.Tex.,PublicHearing—Birmingham,Ala.,Panel1,Tr.,at2.
955 RuthFriedman,Director,FederalCapitalHabeasProject,PublicHearing—Birmingham,Ala., Panel 3, Tr., at 33.
956 RichardBurr,TexasRegionalHabeasandAssistanceProject,PublicHearing—Birmingham,Ala., Panel 3, Writ. Test., at 2 (citing Lisa Olsen, Texas Death Row Lawyers’ Late Filings Deadly to Inmates: Tardy Paperwork Denies Final Appeals for 9 Men, 6 of Whom Have Been Executed, Hou. Chron., Mar. 22, 2009, at A1).
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.

   244   245   246   247   248