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Public Defense

Policies & Guidelines

Adopted Resolutions

Please note the date of being adopted, the subject matter and brief synopsis of resolution.

  • Aug 2020, 117 (PDF)
    Supports a considered and measured approach in adopting and utilizing virtual or remote court proceedings established as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing use of such procedures for essential proceedings and those cases in which litigants consent to the use of virtual or remote processes; setting forth procedures for adopting online court policies and minimum standards
  • Aug 2018, 114 (PDF)
    Adopting the ABA 10 Guidelines on Court Fines and Fees
  • Feb 2018, 114 (PDF)
    Urging federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments to provide legal counsel as a matter of right at public expense to low-income persons in all proceedings that may result in a loss of physical liberty, regardless of whether the proceedings are: a) criminal or civil; or b) initiated or prosecuted by a government entity
  • Aug 2017, 106 (PDF)
    Urges Congress to enact legislation recognizing a right of action in federal court when governments systemically fail to provide public defense as required under the Sixth Amendment. The Resolution also urges Congress to give the Department of Justice authority to initiate these suits. The resolution was approved.
  • Aug 2015 - 108B
    Urges Congress to restore Pell Grant eligibility for prisoners who qualify under existing need-based criteria in order to facilitate re-entry and reduce recidivism. The resolution was approved.
  • Aug 2015 - 108A
    Adopts the black letter of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Monitors, dated August 2015, which outline best practices for the appointment and retention of monitors. The resolution was approved.
  • Feb 2015 - 108B (PDF)
    Urges each jurisdiction that imposes capital punishment to promulgate execution protocols in an open and transparent manner and require public review and comment prior to final adoption of any execution protocol, and require disclosure to the public by all relevant agencies of all relevant information regarding execution procedures. The resolution was approved.
  • Feb 2015 - 108A (PDF)
    Urges all governments that impose capital punishment, and the military, to require that before a court can impose a sentence of death, a jury must unanimously recommend or vote to impose that sentence, and the jury in such cases must also unanimously agree on the existence of any fact that is a prerequisite for eligibility for the death penalty. The resolution was approved
  • Feb 2015 - 107D  (PDF)
    Adopts the black letter of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Prosecution Function and Defense Function, dated February 2015, to supplant the Third Edition (1993) of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Prosecution Function and Defense Function. The resolution was approved.
  • Feb 2015 - 107C (PDF)
    Urges governments to adopt sentencing laws and procedures that both protect public safety and appropriately recognize the mitigating considerations of age and maturity of youthful offenders by enacting sentencing laws and rules of procedure. The resolution was approved as revised.
  • Feb 2015 - 107B (PDF)
    Urges governments to protect the integrity of criminal proceedings, in its truth seeking function, by seeking to hold accountable those who unlawfully intimidate or tamper with victims and by examining practices, procedures and training, and revising them as needed to assure that victims and witnesses are not improperly intimidated or tampered with. The resolution was approved as revised.
  • Feb 2015 - 107A (PDF)
    Urges governments to adopt a presumption against the use of restraints on juveniles in court and to permit a court to allow such use only after providing the juvenile with an in-person opportunity to be heard and finding that the restraints are the least restrictive means necessary to prevent flight or harm to the juvenile or others. The resolution was approved as revised.
  • Aug 2014 - 110A (PDF)
    Urges jurisdictions where capital punishment is permitted to adopt a statue or rule providing an appropriate judicial procedure whereby successors or a legal entity on behalf of an executed individual, may bring and litigate a claim that the individual executed was in fact innocent of the capital offense. The resolution was approved as revised.
  • Feb 2014 - 103B (PDF)
    Urges state governments to apply generally applicable administrative procedure acts’ notice-and-comment rule-making provisions to regulations governing correctional facilities and officers. The resolution was approved
  • Feb 2014 - 103A (PDF)
    Urges governments to ensure that juveniles are provided effective appellate representation and have access to appeals consistent with state statutes and/or state constitutional provisions. The resolution was approved. 
  • Aug 2013 - 113E (PDF)
    Opposes plea or sentencing agreements that waive a criminal defendant’s post-conviction claims addressing ineffective assistance of counsel, prosecutorial misconduct or destruction of evidence unless based upon past conduct that is specifically identified in the plea or sentencing agreement or transcript of the proceedings.
  • Feb 2013 -  104A (PDF)
    Urges Congress to establish an independent federally funded Center for Indigent Defense Services for the purpose of assisting state, local, tribal and territorial governments in carrying out their constitutional obligation to provide effective assistance of counsel for the defense of the indigent accused in criminal, juvenile and civil commitment proceedings.
  • Feb 2013 - 104C (PDF)
    Urges governments to enact legislation to prohibit the retaliatory discharge of a Chief Public Defender or other head of an indigent defense services provider because of his or her good faith effort to control acceptance of more clients than the office can competently and diligently represent, in accordance with their ethical obligations.
  • Feb 2013 -  104E (PDF)
    Urges jurisdictions to ensure that defense counsel inquires and investigates a juvenile defendant’s immigration status and informs the defendant about any possible collateral consequences.
  • Aug 2012 - 107C
    Urges defender organizations and criminal defense lawyers to address clients’ inter-related criminal, civil and non-legal problems and urges funding for these purposes
  • Aug 2012 - 107D
    Urges Congress to amend 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d) to require a federal district court to review de novo, based on the record made in the federal court, claims of ineffective assistance of counsel by petitioners under sentence of death.
  • Feb 2012 - 101E
    Urges the federal government to request that public housing authorities and other owners of federally subsidized rental housing reevaluate their current rules regarding admission, termination, and additions to household to ensure that, while resident safety is protected, those rules do not unfairly punish persons with criminal records. Approved as Revised*
  • Feb 2012 - 101F
    Supports legislation, policies and practices that allow equal and uniform access to therapeutic courts and problem-solving sentencing alternatives, such as drug treatment and anger management counseling, regardless of the custody or detention status of the individual. Approved.
  • Aug 2011 - 105B (PDF)
    Adopts the Key Requirements for the Certification of Correctional Accrediting Entities, dated August 2011, and urges governments to require that public and private facilities in which adults or juveniles are confined for violations or alleged violations of criminal, juvenile, or immigration laws be accredited by one or more federally-certified accrediting entities.  The resolution was approved.
  • Aug 2011 - 105C (PDF)
    The House approved by consent Resolution 105C urging the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and state, tribal and local correctional authorities to develop and implement gender-responsive needs assessments that account for women’s specific needs, including parenting responsibilities, the importance of their relationships, their histories of domestic violence and abuse, and their distinctive patterns and prevalence of mental health issues. 
  • Aug 2011 - 105D
    Urges governments to adopt disclosure rules in courts requiring the prosecution to obtain from its agents and to make timely disclosure to the defense before the commencement of trial or a guilty plea all information known to the prosecution that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, mitigate the offense charged or sentence, or impeach the prosecution’s witnesses or evidence, except when relieved of this responsibility by a protective order.  The resolution was approved.
  • Aug 2011 - 118
    The House approved by consent Resolution 118 supporting measures to improve access to counsel for individuals in immigration removal proceedings. 
  • Feb 2011 - 104A (PDF)
    Urges federal, state, territorial, tribal and local courts to adopt a procedure whereby a criminal trial court shall disseminate to the prosecution and defense a written checklist delineating in detail the general disclosure obligations of the prosecution under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), its progeny and applicable ethical standards. The resolution was approved as revised.
  • Feb 2011 - 104B
    Urges Congress to amend 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241(d) and 2255(f)(1) to provide equitable tolling of the one-year statute of limitations for filing for post-conviction relief when the prisoner who has an attorney has timely requested post-conviction counsel to file a §2254 petition or a §2255 motion. The resolution was approved.
  • Feb 2011 - 104D
    Urges federal, state, tribal, local and territorial governments to use electronic monitoring and home detention at government expense for juvenile offenders who are legally eligible for secure detention but whose risk of flight or further offending does not require secure pre-trial detention or incarceration.  The resolution was approved as revised.
  • Aug 2010 - 100C (PDF)
    Urges federal, state, territorial, tribal and local governments to provide funding to state and federal public defender offices and legal aid programs specifically for the provision of immigration advice about the immigration consequences of criminal proceedings to indigent non-U.S. citizen defendants, and about any available relief from such consequences.  The recommendation was approved as revised.
  • Aug 2010 - 100I (PDF)
    Urges federal, state, local and territorial governments, legislative bodies and courts to provide the funds and other resources necessary to assure that in criminal cases an accused: 1) is able to obtain testing or retesting of evidence, and 2) is provided expert testimonial or other assistance when necessary to assure a fair trial or sentencing proceeding.  The recommendation was approved as revised.
  • Feb 2010 - 102A (PDF)
    Urges federal, state, territorial and local governments to increase the opportunities of youth involved with the juvenile or criminal justice systems and to prevent the continuing discrimination against those who have been involved with these systems in the past by limiting the collateral consequences of juvenile arrests, adjudications and convictions. The recommendation was approved as revised.
  • Feb 2010 - 102C
    Urges federal, state, local and territorial governments to undertake a comprehensive review of the misdemeanor provisions of their criminal laws, and, where appropriate, to allow the imposition of civil fines or nonmonetary civil remedies instead of criminal penalties, including fines and incarceration. The recommendation was approved.
  • Feb 2010 - 102D
    Urges federal, state, local and territorial courts to adopt a procedure whereby a criminal trial court shall conduct, at a reasonable time prior to a criminal trial, involving felony or serious misdemeanor charges, a conference with the parties to ensure that they are fully aware of their respective disclosure obligations under applicable discovery rules, statues, ethical standards and the federal and state constitutions and to offer the court’s assistance in resolving disputes over disclosure obligations. The recommendation was approved as revised.
  • Feb 2010 - 102E (PDF)
    Urges federal, state, local and territorial governments to ensure that judicial, administrative, legislative and executive authorities expand, as appropriate in light of security and safety concerns, initiatives that facilitate contact and communication between parents in correctional custody and their children in the free community.The recommendation was approved.
  • Feb 2010 - 102F
    Urges bars associations and law schools to consider and expand, as appropriate, initiatives to assist criminal defendants and prisoners in avoiding undue consequences of arrest and conviction on their custodial and parental rights and urges Congress to eliminate restrictions that prohibit recipients of Legal Services Corporation funds from providing legal assistance to prisoners on family law issues. The recommendation was approved.
  • Feb 2010 - 114A (PDF)
    Urges the Department of Homeland Security to implement specific policies and procedures within the immigration removal adjudication system and urges Congress to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act regarding the removal of noncitizens convicted of certain crimes. The recommendation was approved.
  • Aug 2009 - ABA Guidelines of Public Defense Related to Excessive Workloads (PDF)
    Adopts “ABA Guidelines of Public Defense Related to Excessive Workloads,” which provide guidance to public defense programs and lawyers who provide the representation, when they are confronted with too many persons to represent and are thus prevented from discharging their responsibilities under professional conduct rules.
  • Aug 2005 - ABA Policy on Indigent Defense Reforms Needed to Insure Compliance with Gideon (PDF)

    Urges increased state and federal funding for indigent defense, stronger oversight mechanisms, remedies to avoid work overload of defense counsel, increased judicial scrutiny of ethical duties and lapses by prosecutors and defenders, greater involvement of bar associations in monitoring criminal proceedings and involvement of community groups and individual citizens in improving the indigent defense system.
  • Aug 2004 - ABA Guidelines on Contribution Fees for Costs of Counsel in Criminal Cases (PDF)
    Adopts "ABA Guidelines on Contribution Fees for Costs at Counsel in Criminal Cases" and urges compliance with Guidelines to ensure satisfactory procedural safeguards when accused persons are ordered to make a payment for representation furnished to them at government expense.
  • Feb 2003 - ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases (PDF)
    Adopts the black letter ABA Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Defense Counsel in Death Penalty Cases, dated February 2003; and recommends adoption by death penalty jurisdictions of the Guidelines.
  • Feb 2002 - The Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System (PDF)
    Adopt or reaffirm THE TEN PRINCIPLES OF A PUBLIC DEFENSE DELIVERY SYSTEM, which constitute the fundamental criteria to deliver effective and efficient, high quality, ethical, conflict-free representation to accused persons who cannot afford to hire an attorney. Recommend that jurisdictions use these ten principles to assess promptly the needs of public defense delivery systems and clearly communicate those needs to policy makers.
  • Aug 1998 - Representation for Indigents at Initial Appearance (PDF)
    Recommend that all jurisdictions ensure that defendants are represented by counsel at their initial judicial appearance where bail is set and that each jurisdiction provide adequate resources to support effective implementation of such representation by counsel for indigent defendants.
  • Aug 1998 - Minimum Standards for Indigent Defense Programs (PDF)
    Urge adoption of minimum standards for the creation and operation of its indigent defense delivery systems based on four specified sets of guidelines/standards. Urge encouragement and support of the adoption of minimum standards for the creation and operation of indigent defense systems. Urge that substantial compliance with such minimum standards be required as a condition for receiving funds.
  • Feb 1997 - 
    Death Penalty Moratorium (PDF)
    Urge jurisdictions that impose capital punishment not to carry out the death penalty until the jurisdiction implements policies and procedures that are consistent with four longstanding Association policies intended to (1) ensure that death penalty cases are administered fairly and impartially, in accordance with due process, and (2) minimize the risk that innocent persons may be executed, with the understanding that, apart from existing policies relating to offenders who are mentally retarded or under the age of 19 at the time of the commission of the offenses, the Association takes no position on the death penalty.
  • Aug 1996 - Access to Counsel in the Military for Post-Conviction Habeas Corpus Death Penalty Cases (PDF)
    Urge that military capital prisoners be provided with the same opportunity for the assistance of counsel in seeking federal post-conviction habeas corpus relief as is now provided by federal law for persons sentenced to death in the civilian courts of this country.
  • Feb 1992 - Office for Improvements in the Administration of Justice, Department of Justice (PDF)
    Support the reestablishment in the United States Department of Justice of the Office for Improvements in the Administration of Justice with broad authority to pursue a range of programs and projects relating to the entire justice system, that the Office be headed by an Assistant Attorney General, under the direction of the Attorney General, and that the Office be authorized and responsible for developing ways to improve the operation of the civil and criminal justice system and to enhance citizen access to justice.
  • Aug 1991 - Balanced Funding to All Components of the Justice System (PDF)
    Recognize that the highest priority of the bar and bench must be to promote improvements in the American system of justice by ensuring balanced and adequate funding for, and timely access to, the entire justice system and urge Association entities, state and local bars and affiliated organizations to form coordinated action committees with nonlawyer groups to take certain steps with respect to the justice system.
  • Feb 1991 - Inclusion of Indigent Defense Programs in Federal Grant Funding (PDF)
    Support congressional legislation mandating the inclusion of state and local indigent defense programs among those eligible for funding under the Anti–Drug Abuse Act of 1988 and similar federal laws, and further mandating the inclusion of research, training and technical assistance programs for state and local indigent defense systems in the discretionary grant programs under the Bureau of Justice Assistance and similar agencies. Urge Congress to authorize and appropriate funding to assist state and local governments in implementing the constitutional obligation to provide effective assistance of counsel for indigent defendants in state and local proceedings. Urge state legislatures in those states where funding for indigent defense services is primarily provided at the local level to increase the level of state funding.
  • Feb 1990 - Competent Counsel in Death Cases (PDF)
    Urge implementation of certain measures in the litigation of death penalty cases, including the provision of competent and adequately compensated counsel, and commend to Congress sample legislation as a way to implement the recommendations.
  • Feb 1989 - Guidelines for Counsel in Death Cases (PDF)
    Recommend adoption of Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Counsel in Death Penalty Cases, subject to such exceptions as may be appropriate in the military, by entities providing counsel in death penalty cases.
  • Aug 1988 - Reasonable Compensation for Assigned Counsel (PDF)
    Urge all jurisdictions to provide by statute or rule of court that attorneys appointed to represent persons who have a constitutional or statutory right to counsel receive reasonable compensation and full reimbursement for costs and expenses.
  • Feb 1988 - Representation Plan for Habeas Corpus Death Penalty Cases (PDF)
    Support full utilization of certain provisions pertaining to representation in federal habeas corpus death penalty proceedings and acknowledge the efforts of the federal judges to implement them. Urge federal district and circuit courts to adopt and federal circuit judicial councils to approve (1) a plan for providing representation in federal death penalty proceedings in accordance with certain procedures, and (2) certain amendments to its Criminal Justice Act plan. Urge the federal courts to consult extensively with appropriate state criminal justice leaders in developing and carrying out such implementation plans.
  • Feb 1987 - Standards for Right to Counsel in Juvenile Cases (PDF)
    Urge state and local bar associations to support amendments to the statutory law and court rules in their states with respect to the right to counsel in juvenile court proceedings to bring them into compliance with the Institute of Judicial Administration/American Bar Association Standards Relating to Counsel for Private Parties.
  • Feb 1985 - Appointment of Two Attorneys in Death Penalty Cases (PDF)
    Recommend that when attorneys are appointed to represent defendants in the trial of death penalty cases, two attorneys shall be appointed as trial counsel to represent the defendant, and the primary attorney shall have substantial trial experience which includes the trial of serious felony cases.
  • Feb 1985 - Standards for Awarding Contracts for Criminal Defense Services (PDF)
    Oppose the awarding of government contracts for criminal defense services on the basis of cost alone or through competitive bidding without reference to quality of representation; and urge that the awarding of contracts should, in addition to cost, be based on certain specified qualitative criteria.
  • Aug 1984 - Adequate Defense and Prosecution in Juvenile Courts (PDF)
    Urge Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the U.S. Department of Justice to support the implementation of adequate defense and prosecution services in the nation's juvenile courts.
  • Feb 1982 - Criminal Justice Act: Reasonable Compensation for CJA Attorneys (PDF)
    Urge Congress to increase, or to provide a mechanism for administratively increasing, the per-hour and maximum total of compensation authorized under the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 so that attorneys receive reasonable compensation in accordance with prevailing standards.
  • Feb 1979 - Right to Counsel in Post-Conviction Death Cases (PDF)
    Urge the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a rule providing for appointment of counsel to pursue postconviction remedies in death penalty cases, and recommend that the Criminal Justice Act be amended to provide for adequate compensation to counsel in such cases.
  • Feb 1979, Aug 1973 - Center for Defense Services (PDF)
    Support the establishment of an independent, federally funded center for defense services for the purpose of strengthening state and local criminal defense service programs.