TDCAA    TDCAA Community  Hop To Forum Categories  Appellate    Appellate public defender
Appellate public defender Login/Join 
Public defender pilot may go statewide

Web Posted: 04/13/2007 10:53 PM CDT

Ron Wilson
An experiment designed to improve the way criminal appeals by poor people are handled has saved Bexar County taxpayers $700,000 in 18 months and could become a model statewide.
The Bexar County Appellate Public Defender Office, which has handled 400 cases since opening in August 2005, will expand May 1 to become the state's first regional office and will cover all 31 counties under jurisdiction of the 4th Court of Appeals.

The expansion will be funded with a $200,000 grant from the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense and will add an attorney and a paralegal.

"I'm very proud of our APDO team," said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. "It is one of a kind, and now will be the first regional appellate office of its kind in the state."

The public defender model was created as a pilot program to address concerns with the current system of indigent appeals, said Angela Moore, who heads the program.

In Texas, a criminal conviction can be appealed only if there was an error in law, which means a judge made a mistake.

But the same judge who made the mistake is charged with selecting a court-appointed attorney to handle the appeal and then deciding how much the lawyer should be paid.

"Some judges don't feel comfortable with that," Moore said.

The new program creates a single office where lawyers trained in criminal appeals take on all the cases. This bypasses the court-appointed attorney system and so far has saved taxpayers more than $700,000 in attorney fees, she said.

The new model has other benefits as well, Moore said.

Typically, court-appointed attorneys either have little experience in appealing convictions of major crimes or they find it more economical to spend time on clients who can pay. This is especially true in rural counties, Moore said, where few attorneys have appellate experience.

The defender's office also has been able to weed out frivolous appeals that clog the courts, she said.

County governments should find the new model helpful in planning, she said, because they will know ahead of time how much money to budget for the office.

So far, Moore said, the office has handled appeals from children as young as 12 and discovered errors such as the wrong crime being listed in court documents. Such mistakes keep prisoners in jail longer than they're supposed to be and worsen overcrowding.

In October, she said, the office is expected to extend its services to the mentally ill.

"These are people who have committed minor crimes who need treatment," she said.

Estimates show in Dallas County, getting the mentally ill into treatment centers could cut the jail population by 15 percent, making room for those who commit violent crimes, she said.
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
posted Hide Post
Anyone understand the difference between the Dallas PD model and the Bexar PD model? Surely, Houston has a PD too? It makes sense that the larger jurisdictions initiate the programs in their areas. I imagine the PDs bring standards and consistency to the table.

Posts: 586 | Location: Denton,TX | Registered: January 08, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
  Powered by Social Strata  

TDCAA    TDCAA Community  Hop To Forum Categories  Appellate    Appellate public defender

© TDCAA, 2001. All Rights Reserved.