Defending Data

68 Pages Posted: 18 Jul 2013 Last revised: 6 Sep 2019

See all articles by Pamela R. Metzger

Pamela R. Metzger

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

American University Washington College of Law

Date Written: 2014


Defending Data proposes a data-driven, systems-based approach to improving public defense in America.

Public defenders represent millions of defendants every year. Yet, public defense remains a largely data-less enterprise, a black box of discretionary decisions disconnected from any systemic analysis about the relationship between defender practices and case outcomes. Defending Data adopts a novel approach to the crisis of public defense. Building off of the successful implementation of system-based approaches in other complex, high-risk industries such as aviation and medicine, Defending Data explains how defenders can develop a data-driven systems approach to public defense.

Defending Data begins by describing the data deficit in public defense and discussing the systemic, technological, and cultural reasons for this data-void. Then, Defending Data explains the systems approach to high-stakes professional practices and explores how public defenders can adapt this approach to the delivery of indigent defense services. Based on this analysis, Defending Data proposes a systems approach to public defense and offers a preliminary typology of the data that such public defenders should collect and analyze. Using concrete examples, Defending Data demonstrates how public defender systems might implement a data-driven systems approach. Defending Data concludes with a call for the indigent defense community to reimagine indigent defense by establishing national standards for defending data.

Keywords: data analysis, criminal defense, Gideon, indigent defense, evidence-based, big data, systems approach

Suggested Citation

Metzger, Pamela R. and Ferguson, Andrew Guthrie, Defending Data (2014). 88 Southern California Law Review 1057 (2015), Tulane Public Law Research Paper No. 13-14, Available at SSRN: or

Pamela R. Metzger (Contact Author)

Southern Methodist University - Dedman School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

American University Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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