A fundamental cornerstone of a free society is the individual's right
to a competent, well-prepared attorney when the state seeks deprivation
of liberty through criminal prosecution. The glue which makes the cornerstone
adhere is both adequate funding of appointed counsel and necessary services
required by counsel to guarantee a balance which does not give an undue
advantage to the prosecution. Unfortunately, 25 years following the United
States Supreme Court's landmark decision in Gideon v. Wainwright,
funding for these two essential functions is woefully inadequate.
Attorneys appointed to represent those accused of committing crimes are
paid a pittance compared to market rates. Even when there is ample verification
of time, proper screening of activities and third-party review of claims,
an attorney is subjected to arbitrary reductions. While it is generally
recognized that such fees will never match those earned in the marketplace,
they should bear some semblance to a fair price for the geographic area.
Appointed counsel have an absolute duty to investigate and prepare cases
thoroughly so they can perform their constitutionally mandated function.
Law enforcement often spends months interviewing witnesses, performing
laboratory tests and consulting experts. To guarantee the integrity of
the process, fairness dictates that the same considerations should apply
to the acquisition of evidence required by the defense.
--drafted by Philip H. Pennypacker
FORUM, JULY/AUGUST 1990, Vol.17 No.4