Explaining the Outcome Gap between Different Types of Indigent Defense Counsel: Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard Effects
October 30, 2010
County governments typically provide legal defense services for the indigent through one of two methods: public defenders and assigned counsel. I measure the differences in defendant outcomes between these two types of counsel and examine the extent to which adverse selection and moral hazard contribute to these differences. I find that, across a variety of outcome variables, assigned counsel generate significantly less favorable outcomes for defendants than do public defenders. Using variation in the fee structures through which assigned counsel are paid, I find evidence suggesting that moral hazard can affect the speed with which a case is resolved. I use variation in local attorney wages to measure the degree to which the decision to self-select onto an assigned counsel roster is sensitive to an attorney’s outside option. My results indicate that this selection effect is quite significant and robust to specification, strongly suggesting that adverse selection is of primary importance in explaining the outcome gap between public defenders and assigned counsel.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 62
Keywords: public defender, adverse selection, moral hazard
JEL Classification: K14, K40
Date posted: May 14, 2011
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