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Midyear 2014: Annual Summit on Indigent Defense Improvement to focus on public defender caseloads


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Midyear 2014: Annual Summit on Indigent Defense Improvement to focus on public defender caseloads

By John Glynn

The American Bar Association’s Ninth Annual Summit on Indigent Defense Improvement will offer a retrospective on the 50th anniversary of the Criminal Justice Act, review groundbreaking efforts to replace 1973 workload standards with new data-driven standards, and explore wrongful convictions and how effective assistance of counsel could have made a difference in the original outcome.


The summit will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8, at ABA headquarters during the association’s Midyear Meeting in Chicago. For the luncheon keynote address, University of Chicago law professor Randolph Stone will discuss his diverse life in the law as a public defender, partner in private practice, director of a legal aid clinic and ABA section chair.

“In my talk, I will do some reflecting on the past — where we’ve been in providing counsel for poor people, where we are today — and make some suggestions on where we should go in the future,” Stone said. He added that lack of funding is the major critical issue in the indigent defense area today.  

Other speakers at the summit will include ABA President James R. Silkenat, Washington State Bar Association Executive Director Paula Littlewood and exoneree Terrill Swift.

During the summit, an unprecedented report will be released that quantitatively analyzes the workload of Missouri public defenders pursuant to the rigorous application of a well-established methodology. The report describes a collaborative effort by RubinBrown, one of the nation’s leading accounting and consulting firms, the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants and the Missouri State Public Defender System to study the workloads of Missouri public defenders. The report examines the amount of time required for lawyers to provide reasonably effective representation to their clients pursuant to prevailing professional norms.

“This is a unique event, bringing together key national leaders of the organized bar, state indigent defense systems and the judiciary to explore solutions to the many thorny issues that remain in our indigent defense systems,” said Lisa C. Wood, chair of SCLAID and partner at Foley Hoag in Boston. “Those systems far too often provide the mere illusion of justice rather than the real access to competent and committed counsel that was envisioned by the Supreme Court when it issued its decision in Gideon v. Wainwright.

SCLAID has been sponsoring the Annual Summit on Indigent Defense Improvement since 2005, intending to provide an opportunity for attendees to learn from experts about recent developments in indigent defense from around the country. SCLAID sponsors this forum with the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys because “it recognizes the importance of leadership from the organized bar in addressing injustices faced by indigent defendants.”