Too Many Clients, Too Little Time: How States are Forcing Public Defenders to Violate Their Ethical Obligations
13 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2012
Date Written: December 12, 2012
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.
Keywords: public defender, indigent clients, right to counsel, Model Rules of Professional Conduct, caseloads, ethical standards, American Bar Association, American Bar Association's Formal Opinion 06-441, reform, indigent defense
JEL Classification: K10, K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation