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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: November 7, 2019 09:38 AM
From: Representative Joanna E. McClinton
To: All House members
Subject: LBFC Study on Indigent Legal Defense
Pennsylvania’s indigent legal defense system continues to be an anomaly compared to other states. While the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed an individual’s right to counsel in the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright case in 1963, until very recently, Pennsylvania was the only state not to appropriate any money to help counties meet this constitutionally mandated task.

Earlier this year, Act 20 of 2019 was signed into law and provided $500,000 to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to reimburse counties for the costs of indigent legal defense for capital cases. This is a very positive development and step in the right direction. Moving forward, Pennsylvania needs to thoroughly look at and revamp our system of indigent legal defense, considering issues faced by rural and urban counties alike. To do this effectively, we should have accurate and up-to-date data.

My resolution will require the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct a comprehensive study on the historic funding and caseload sizes regarding indigent legal defense in each county for the past three years. This study shall be completed by November 2020 and will provide the General Assembly with valuable information as we continue to look for ways to improve our criminal justice system, especially when it comes to indigent legal defense.

Once we have the numbers to determine the level of funding and caseloads managed per county, we can formulate effective legislative proposals to address these issues right here in Pennsylvania to ensure justice is accessible for all.

Introduced as HR619