New Book on Public Defense in Criminal Cases Offers 'Clear Vision of a More Promising Future'
“Our nation’s public defense systems in state courts, with few exceptions, should be a source of great embarrassment for all of us,” says former FBI Director, William Sessions in his foreword to Securing Reasonable Caseloads: Ethics and Law in Public Defense. The book is written by Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus Norman Lefstein of the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.
Calling Professor Lefstein “the nation’s leading scholar on indigent defense systems,” Sessions says that he “shows us a viable way forward…[and] a clear vision of a more promising future.”
This groundbreaking book, which is being sent nationwide to bar leaders, judges, and public defenders, was sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants (SCLAID) and supported by Atlantic Philanthropies. It can be accessed on the Internet at www.indigentdefense.org .
As explained by Professor Lefstein, his book recommends a number of reforms, including “more extensive involvement in public defense by private lawyers, who are supervised and adequately compensated, thus reducing excessive caseloads frequently imposed on public defenders, and the use of free market principles in which clients are able to select their own lawyers who are pre-qualified to furnish competent and diligent representation.”
A noted expert on legal ethics and representation of the indigent, Professor Lefstein has studied public defense for decades. Before teaching law, he served as director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, as an Assistant United States Attorney in D.C., and as a staff member in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General of the U.S. Department of Justice. His professional activities include serving as Chair of the ABA Section of Criminal Justice; as a member of the ABA SCLAID; as chair of SCLAID’s Indigent Defense Advisory Group; and as Chief Consultant to a Subcommittee on Federal Death Penalty Cases of the Judicial Conference of the United States. For seventeen years Professor Lefstein chaired the Indiana Public Defender Commission to which he was appointed by Indiana Governors. He also has frequently been an expert witness in proceedings concerned with professional ethics and/or defense representation.
Professor Lefstein was a member and co-reporter for the National Right to Counsel Committee, organized by The Constitution Project and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. In this capacity, he played a major role in writing Justice Denied: America’s Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel, published in 2009. He also was a reporter for the 2009 ABA Eight Guidelines of Public Defense Related to Excessive Defender Workloads.
During the 1970’s, Professor Lefstein served as Reporter for the Second Edition of the ABA Criminal Justice Standards Relating to the Prosecution Function, The Defense Function, Providing Defense Services, and Pleas of Guilty. In 1982, he wrote Criminal Defense Services for the Poor: Methods and Programs for Providing Legal Representation and the Need for Adequate Financing; and in 2004 he co-authored Gideon’s Broken Promise: America’s Continuing Quest for Equal Justice. His law review articles concerned with indigent defense include an extensive study comparing public defense in the United States with criminal legal aid in the United Kingdom. He was the 2005 recipient of the Champion of Indigent Defense Award from the National Association of Criminal Lawyers.