January 12, 2001
The current Indigent Defense Task Force is the third task force formed by the Oregon State Bar (OSB) to study the provision of indigent defense services in Oregon. In 1993, then Oregon State Bar President Julie Frantz appointed a project oriented Indigent Defense Task Force to replace the former OSB Committee on the Indigent Accused. That Task Force (Task Force I) was charged with providing recommendations to the Board regarding 'funding', 'quality of representation' and 1993 legislative issues. Task Force I delivered its final report in July 1994, and included the recommendation that the OSB promulgate and adopt standards for providing indigent defense services. The second OSB Indigent Defense Task Force (Task Force II) took on that task. It submitted its final report in June 1996, entitled 'Principles and Standards for Counsel in Criminal, Delinquency, Dependency and Civil Commitment Cases'. That report comprehensively defined the standards that counsel, including indigent defense providers, should meet to provide competent legal counsel; in essence, the report established, for every step of criminal, juvenile and civil commitment proceedings, the practices and procedures viewed by Task Force II as essential 'to assure that the system operates as an integrated whole in the delivery of justice'. The Board of Governors adopted the principles and standards set out in the Task Force II report. Those principles and standards have been incorporated into the Oregon Indigent Defense Services Division’s contracts with indigent defense providers across the state and copies of the report are provided to indigent defense providers and other participants in the criminal justice system.
The current Task Force has focused on issues relating to the quality of legal representation as it is actually provided to indigent clients in this state. As charged by the Board of Governors, Task Force III has examined whether there are types of providers, types of cases, or geographic areas of the state in which quality of services is a concern. In examining the questions set out by the Board, Task Force III also has reviewed existing monitoring practices in the various judicial districts across the state to determine what monitoring for quality is conducted.
To conduct this study, the Task Force began with an interview of Ann Christian, the director of the Indigent Defense Services Division of the State Court Administrator's Office. That interview was followed with an interview of Dan O'Leary, the chair of the Task Force II. Following those interviews, Task Force III members developed a survey designed to inquire, in an open-ended manner, into the areas of quality concern identified in the Board charge. The survey was administered by Task Force III members with substantial assistance from many volunteer surveyors recruited by Task Force members; the volunteer surveyors and Task Force members each made a substantial time commitment to the survey effort, and this study would not have been possible without their considerable contributions.
The survey was designed to solicit the experience and opinions of legal professionals throughout the judicial system. Approximately two hundred legal professionals were interviewed: judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers and administrators of defense firms were all surveyed. Many of the interview subjects were chosen at random from comprehensive lists of local lawyers and judiciary but an effort was made to include all top administrators and a sampling of lawyers in various other roles: staff lawyers at public defender and contractor offices, private bar members, and sole practitioners participating in consortia. Similarly, almost all the elected prosecutors of each county were surveyed but input was also solicited from staff prosecutors. Surveys were conducted in every district of the state and, although no formalized equation was applied to determine how many surveys were conducted in a particular district, an effort was made to select a number of survey participants in proportion to the population of the district involved. In all, the Task Force believes opinions were solicited from a large and representative sample across the state.
The charge to Task Force III was to ascertain what quality controls currently exist. We address that issue first. We also evaluate, pursuant to your charge, whether certain factors impact the quality of indigent defense services in the state: the type of provider, geographic area, and the case type. Each factor is addressed separately below. Following the draft report are appendices of Karen Garst's letter of April 1998 setting out the BOG charge to our Task Force (Appendix A), Bar President Mark Johnson's letter of December 1998 to the selected survey participants (Appendix B), a sample survey (Appendix C), the survey letters and instructions circulated to those enlisted to conduct the survey (Appendix D), a roster of the members of this Task Force (Appendix E).