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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 11, 2014 12:09 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Indigent Defense Legal Representation
The United States Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 U.S. 335 (1963) that free counsel for criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire an attorney is mandated upon the states by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. After fifty years Pennsylvania is the only state that does not appropriate funds to assist counties in complying with the Gideon constitutional mandate. Pennsylvania should appropriate funds to comply with Gideon through establishing and providing for a center to support the delivery of services to indigent criminal defendants in Pennsylvania.

I am reintroducing Senate Bill 979 to establish the Pennsylvania Center for Effective Indigent Defense Legal Representation. A board of directors which is representative of the criminal defense bar will oversee the operation of the center. The center may exist as an independent agency or be affiliated with a Pennsylvania school of law. The center will perform the following duties:
(1) Develop and provide continuing education, training and skills development programs and resources for public defender staff attorneys, assigned counsel and contract public defenders representing indigent criminal defendants.
(2) Establish and maintain programs for capital case defense skills training, adult criminal defense training, juvenile delinquency defense training; and management and leadership training for chief defenders and public defender office leaders.
(3) Establish a virtual defender training library consisting of all of the programs generated by the training programs sponsored through the center.
(4) Contract with one or more nonprofit organizations to assist the center in providing any of its duties and responsibilities including any of the education, training and skills development programs.

The legislation appropriates the sum of $1 million for the upcoming fiscal year to establish the center. This appropriation will relieve Pennsylvania of its unique position of being the only state not providing funds to help underwrite indigent criminal defense services. The center also will seek supplemental funding from federal and private sources.

In December 2011 the Joint State Government Commission issued a report “A Constitutional Default: Services to Indigent Criminal Defendants in Pennsylvania.” Drawing heavily from a study published in 2003 by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias, the commission’s Advisory Committee on Services to Indigent Criminal Defendants concluded that Pennsylvania was not meeting the Gideon constitutional mandate.

The Joint State Government Commission report proposed a statewide agency to oversee indigent criminal defense services. In the spirit of that report but recognizing fiscal realities, my legislation is based on a scaled back proposal from the Pennsylvania Coalition for Justice. The coalition includes many of the members of the commission’s advisory committee and it recommends a center that will provide training and education to providers of indigent criminal defense services. This center will contract with proven, established training and education providers to build program agendas and curricula that meet national standards and improve the quality and delivery of indigent criminal defense services throughout Pennsylvania.

The Judiciary Committee reported this bill in the 2013-2014 legislative session, but the bill was re-referred to the Appropriations Committee, where it remained for the rest of the session.

Introduced as SB276