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Policy Statements- Funding for Court-Appointed Counsel

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

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