Thursday, January 3, 2013

Philadelphia looks to change appointment of conflict counsel

On the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the City of Philadelphia wants to overhaul how it provides legal counsel to indigent defendants by implementing a controversial process by which firms bid for work now handled individually by hundreds of lawyers, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Officials say a new system could improve the defense that poor people get. But the lawyers who now do the work predict it will lead to worse outcomes in court.

Currently, when a conflict prevents the Defender Association of Philadelphia from representing someone, the courts assign the client a lawyer. Such conflicts arise when clients' legal interests diverge and the association cannot represent all the parties.

The city spends $8 million to $10 million yearly on so-called conflict counsel, who work in family and criminal courts. Under city fee schedules in effect last summer, private lawyers were paid a flat fee of $350 to defend misdemeanor cases and $600 for defendants facing felony counts, reported the Inquirer.

From July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, there were 22,441 conflict appointments in Philadelphia's Family, Criminal, Municipal, Orphans, and Traffic Courts, according to the city's proposal.

Lawyer Samuel Stretton said he was prepared to sue the city if it moved forward with the plan, for which bids are due Jan. 18. He believes such a new system would seek only to save money and not to provide high-quality representation, which could trample on the rights of poor people.

"It doesn't make any sense, this proposal, and I'm really kind of taken aback that the city would do this without talking to people like myself and others who are involved in this kind of work," Stretton told the Inquirer. "This is a proposal where they think they can get something cheaper, and it's impossible."

To read more: Click Here

No comments:

Post a Comment