Client Choice for Indigent Criminal Defendants: Theory and Implementation
75 Pages Posted: 23 May 2015
Date Written: May 21, 2015
With rare exceptions, existing systems for effectuating the indigent criminal defendant’s right to counsel range from disappointing to scandalously inadequate. Inadequate funding, though always prominently mentioned, is often merely a symptom of a problem that weakens almost all indigent defense systems, whether poorly funded or not -- the fact that the indigent defendant is never permitted to select his own attorney.
In previous articles, I argued that arguments against client choice are almost entirely bogus. The concept nonetheless drew little interest, but that situation recently changed when the Texas Indigent Defense Commission put the proposal into effect on a trial basis. Unlike every other American jurisdiction, Comal County, Texas, now permits indigent defendants to select the attorney who will represent them at state expense. In this article, I explain the theoretical underpinnings of client choice, discuss its implementation in Comal County, and consider its prospects for success there and elsewhere.
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