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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 98717 Find in a Library
Title: Representation for Indigent Criminal Defendants in American Courts
Journal: Criminal Justice Journal  Volume:7  Issue:2  Dated:(Summer 1984)  Pages:417-433
Author(s): P W Singer
Date Published: 1984
Page Count: 17
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: After reviewing the historical foundation and rationale for legal aid to indigent criminal defendants, including consideration of relevant U.S. Supreme Court decisions, this article discusses eligibility for legal aid, types of legal aid systems, attorney compensation, and the resolution of certain problems in legal aid.
Abstract: The historical review of the rationale for legal aid cites Powell v. Alabama (1932) as the first in a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases that held a State's failure to supply an indigent defendant with adequate counsel constituted a violation of due process. Other relevant Supreme Court cases cited are Betts v. Brady, Hudson v. North Carolina, Chewning v. Cunningham, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Argersinger v. Hamlin. The Federal Criminal Justice Act of 1964 is discussed as the foundation for a legal aid plan in each of the Federal judicial districts. A discussion of eligibility of defendants for legal aid considers both State and Federal eligibility criteria. The analysis indicates that both State and Federal courts are mandated by case law to inquire into the financial condition of defendants who claim they cannot afford counsel and to provide counsel for those found to be indigent. Three basic systems of indigent representation are then described: the public defender system, the system of appointing private attorneys, and a hybrid system which combines the previous two. Limits set for the compensation of indigent-defendant attorneys under both State and Federal law are reported. Suggestions are made for studies to determine differences in the effectiveness of legal aid counsel compared to counsel hired by the defendant, and for increasing indigent-defendant attorney compensation. Eighty-three footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Court appointed counsel; Defender systems; Legal aid services; Legal fees; US Supreme Court decisions
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