Professor Lefstein Assumes Responsibility for National Projects Related to Legal Representation for the Indigent
Norman Lefstein, Professor and Dean Emeritus, has agreed to serve as a reporter for the National Right to Counsel Committee of which he is also a member. The committee has been organized by The Constitution Project and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, both of Washington, D.C. The honorary co-chairs of the of the committee are Walter Mondale, former Vice President of the United States, and William Sessions, former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As a reporter, Professor Lefstein will be responsible, in association with a consulting firm, for preparing a national report about the state of defense services for the poor in criminal prosecutions and juvenile delinquency cases, as well as formulating recommendations for improvements. The importance of effective legal representation for the indigent has been heightened in recent years due to exonerations of innocent persons based upon DNA evidence. The report is expected to be released in the fall of 2008.
Professor Lefstein also has agreed, at the request of the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, to prepare a comprehensive guidebook and recommendations to assist public defenders and other lawyers dealing with excessive caseloads in representing the indigent. The guidebook, which is part of a three-year project, is prompted by an ABA legal ethics opinion published in 2006, which made clear that all lawyers have a duty to avoid caseloads in which they are prevented from providing “competent” representation as required by rules of professional conduct. During the project’s third year, when the guidebook is expected to be completed, a national conference will be held dealing with defender caseloads and related indigent defense issues.
Among Professor Lefstein’s prior positions are service as director of the D.C. Public Defender Service in the 1970’s and reporter for the second edition of ABA Standards Related to Providing Defense Services and The Defense Function. He also chaired the Task Force that oversaw the preparation of the ABA’s current edition of these standards. During 1997-1998, Professor Lefstein served as chief consultant to the Subcommittee on Federal Death Penalty cases of the United States Judicial Conference and in this capacity directed preparation of a report dealing with the cost and quality of defense services in federal death penalty cases. More recently, in 2004, Professor Lefstein co-authored the ABA’s 2004 report on indigent defense, “Gideon’s Broken Promise: America’s Continuing Quest for Equal Justice.” Until July 2007, Professor Lefstein chaired the Indiana Public Defender Commission, a position that he held for 17 years.