I have been banging this drum slowly for a while now. I keep hoping that something will give in this the fiftieth anniversary year of Gideon v. Wainwright. The public defense system of Pennsylvania is a gross failure, and New York's is an admitted failure. Now Nova Southeastern law prof Heather Baxter surveys the broad scope of the problem and its impact on the ability of public defenders to meet their ethical obligation to provide competent and effective defense. Unfortunately it's like the weather: everyone talks about it, no one does anything about it. - GWC
Legal Ethics Forum: Heather Baxter, "Too Many Clients, Too Little Time: How States are Forcing Public Defenders to Violate Their Ethical Obligations":
"Budget cuts have had a devastating effect on public defenders and their ability to effectively represent indigent clients, mostly in the form of increasing caseloads. Much has been written about the effect these excessive caseloads have had on indigent defendants’ right to counsel. This article, instead, focuses on how excessive caseloads are placing public defenders in ethical dilemmas. Public defenders are bound by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, but these high caseloads are making it increasingly difficult for them to meet these required ethical standards. Specifically, it is more challenging for an attorney to represent indigent clients diligently and competently when dealing with caseload numbers well beyond the recommended levels. The author discusses why the solutions being offered by the American Bar Association‘s Formal Opinion 06-441 are not tenable and concludes that true reform in indigent defense is the only way to alleviate the excessive caseloads."