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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 91073 Find in a Library
Title: Private Criminal Defense - Reassessing an Endangered Species (From Defense Counsel, P 39-64, 1983, William F McDonald, ed. - See NCJ-91072)
Author(s): P B Wice
Date Published: 1983
Page Count: 26
Sponsoring Agency: Sage Publications, Inc
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Sale Source: Sage Publications, Inc
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Although private criminal lawyers are no better off financially than they were 5 years ago and several recent trends have made their professional survival even more tenuous, for the first time, this condition has gained the interest of the rest of the legal profession, and a coordinated effort for its improvement has begun.
Abstract: The financial crisis being faced by private criminal lawyers endangers the last bastion of independent and selective representation for criminal defendants. Should the defense of criminal cases become dominated by public defenders, then all participants in the adversary system would be supported by public funds. The adversary system works best for the defendant, however, when the defense attorney has no obligations to anyone or any agency besides the client. An obvious trend endangering the survival of the private defense attorney is the financial crisis facing the assigned counsel system of indigent defense. Since many private criminal lawyers depend upon such assignments for the economic survival, this development can have catastrophic implications. In several States, the private criminal lawyer is not being paid for the work assigned and completed. Further, legal clinics and national law firms have challenged the private criminal lawyer by offering defense services at reduced prices. Contract systems for another recent phenomenon offering stiff competition for the private defense bar. These contractors can vary from ad hoc groups of lawyers to an entire law firm, legal clinic, or even a nonprofit organization. Even as its economic plight worsens, the private defense bar is regularly criticized for incompetence by judges, and defendants often bring malpractice suits against their attorneys. On the positive side, however, it appears that the recent decision by the Missouri Supreme Court that lawyers must accept assigned counsel cases without pay or face disciplinary action has alerted the legal profession to the crisis facing the assigned counsel system. The American Bar Association has spoken out against the underpayment and nonpayment of private defense counsel, and there appears to be mounting sentiment in the legal community that action must be taken to ensure the survival of a system of private defense counsel. Nineteen references are provided.
Index Term(s): Defense counsel; Defense counsel effectiveness; Defense services; Legal fees
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