Exemplary Defense: A Study of Three Groundbreaking Projects in Public Defense
Ten Guidelines on Court Fines and Fees
Rhode Island Workload Study Report
2023 marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Gideon v. Wainwright guaranteeing the right to counsel for criminal defendants. But even six decades later, public defenders and other indigent defense providers continue to struggle against outside challenges to provide their clients with the best possible representation. The 2023 ABA Public Defense Summit will focus on ensuring manageable workloads, protecting public defender independence, and other such challenges.Learn - More and Register
For sixty years, the ABA Standards for the Provision of Civil Legal Aid have provided guidance to the nation's legal aid organizations on best practices for the delivery of legal services to their clients. The Standards recently underwent a year-long revision and redrafting process, resulting in a newly adopted set of Standards that reflect today's legal aid practice. This six-hour training is designed for legal aid organization leaders, managers, staff, funders, and board members to learn how the Standards have been revised to better support the provision of high-quality legal services and to ensure that legal aid organizations are managed effectively.Learn - More
ABA SCLAID partnered with Arnold Ventures to produce the report "Punishing the Poor: An Assessment of the Administration of Fines and Fees in New Mexico Misdemeanor Courts." The report examines the fines and fees charged to indigent defendants facing low-level charges in New Mexico courts, and found that best practices, such as those found in the ABA Ten Guidelines on Court Fines and Fees, are routinely ignored. Many defendants are assessed fines that that they cannot afford, and are subsequently jailed for their inability to pay. This system can trap poor defendants in a cycle of fines and jail time that not only increases mass incarceration, but which interrupts employment and other life activities that would have allowed them to pay these fines in the first place.Read - Report
Adopted at the 2022 ABA Annual Meeting, the Ten Principles on Reducing Mass Incarceration articulate the critical steps necessary to help to combat the drivers of mass incarceration and ultimately reduce the number of people in jails and prisons nationwide.Read - Principles
SCLAID’s resolution introduced at the 2022 ABA Midyear Meeting seeking adoption of its Ten Guidelines for Residential Eviction Laws passed the House of Delegates. The now-adopted policy was developed by the SCLAID Task Force on Eviction, Housing Stability, and Equity.Read - Resolution
ABA SCLAID and Moss Adams collaboratively conducted the Oregon Project, An Analysis of Public Defense Attorney Workloads. Published in January 2022, the Oregon Project includes an analysis of historical public defense caseloads and staffing, as well as a Delphi process, which resulted in attorney workload standards. Combining these analyses, the project determined that, at current caseloads, Oregon has a very substantial deficiency of contract public defense attorneys.Read - Report
ABA SCLAID and Moss Adams collaboratively conducted the New Mexico Project, an analysis of public defense attorney workloads. Published in January 2022, the New Mexico Project included an analysis of historical public defense caseloads and staffing, as well as a Delphi process, which resulted in attorney workload standards. Comparing these analyses, the project determined that New Mexico has a significant deficiency of public defense attorneys.Read - Report
Together with data and system analysis experts, ABA SCLAID has conducted public defender workload studies in Missouri, Louisiana, Colorado, Rhode Island and Indiana. This new report details ABA SCLAID’s use of the Delphi Method to establish jurisdiction-specific public defense workload standards and details lessons learned while conducting these studies.Read - Report
The SCLAID Task Force on Eviction, Housing Stability, and Equity brings together experts and leaders from ABA entities and external organizations to address the current national housing crisis.Explore - Task Force
For over 100 years, SCLAID’s work would not have been possible without ABA membership dues. Today's public interest lawyers of all practice backgrounds are able to join the ABA for significantly reduced dues rates of as little as $75 per year. These dues are critical to supporting not just the work of SCLAID, but also that of many other ABA public interest entities. Plus, membership provides a wide array of benefits tailored to the needs of our public interest practitioners. Join the ABA and support both our and your future!
Reports, news and more information related to indigent defense and public defender systems.
The Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense (SCLAID) is working to improve public defense systems nationwide.
These guidelines provide practical direction for government officials, policymakers and others charged with developing, reforming and administering court fines and fees. The guidelines seek to ensure that fines and fees are fairly imposed and administered and that the justice system does not punish people for the "crime" of being poor.Learn - More
Reports, news and more information related to legal aid and access to justice commissions.
Access to Justice Commissions are collaborative entities that bring together courts, the bar, civil legal aid providers, and other stakeholders in an effort to remove barriers to civil justice for low-income and disadvantaged people.Learn More - ATJ Commissions
Financial resource limitations remain one of the largest barriers preventing civil legal aid providers, even with their pro bono allies, from addressing the needs of low-income client communities. The ABArray Legal Aid Funding Report provides users with online access to SCLAID's national legal aid funding data collection from 2003 to present.Learn More - Legal Aid Funding Data
Access state research reports detailing existing authority for appointment of counsel in various types of civil proceedings.
Loan repayment programs ("LRAPs") and loan forgiveness programs have emerged as a solution for relieving the debt burden of some law graduates.Learn - More
The Standards and extensive commentary provide guidance to courts in designing, implementing, and enforcing a comprehensive system of language access services that is suited to the needs in the communities they serve.
Help us improve access to justice by donating to the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid & Indigent Defense (SCLAID).
The Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defense (SCLAID) serves the American Bar Association by addressing issues related to the delivery of civil legal aid and of criminal indigent defense. It maintains close relationships with state and local bar and legal aid/defender leaders, providing information and developing policy on civil legal aid and indigent defense. The Committee also works closely with leaders of the states' judiciaries and national judicial leaders in forging improvements in access to justice. It advocates for, and works to ensure the availability of, legal aid and defender services for indigent persons through a variety of activities and projects. SCLAID is the ABA’s oldest standing committee; established in 1920 under the leadership of Charles Evans Hughes. The Committee has adopted a strategic plan articulating four goals: (1) supporting resource development for public defender and legal aid programs, as well as for SCLAID itself; (2) establishing national guidelines and standards for legal aid and public defense while also recognizing exemplary programs; (3) advocating for meaningful access to the justice system for all; and (4) providing education and training on needs and gaps within current justice systems.Learn More - About Us