The Principles and Performance Standards herein are meant to apply when a lawyer is appointed or retained to represent an individual client in a criminal, juvenile delinquency, juvenile dependency or civil commitment proceeding. The common denominator in these four types of cases is that the clients are subjected to state action that can deprive them of substantial liberty interests. These standards are not intended to address the representation of clients in appellate, probation violation, post conviction relief and habeas corpus cases. However, the Task Force recommends that appropriate standards for these types of cases be studied and adopted in the future.

The Principles and Standards build upon a number of national and state standards which are intended to establish a framework for improvement of lawyer practice in general and in the specific types of cases they address. They assert the importance of quality representation by competent and diligent lawyers.

The Principles and Standards contain five chapters. Chapter 1 provides general standards for counsel who provide representation to individuals in criminal, delinquency, dependency and civil commitment proceedings. Chapters 2 through 4 contain specific standards for each of these types of cases. Chapter 5 sets forth maximum caseload standards for each type of case under optimum circumstances. The Annotations to the Principles and Standards cite standards, caselaw and other reference sources. The Appendix contains summaries and detailed data from surveys the Indigent Defense Task Force conducted and received.

Many of the standards are phrased in terms of counsel 'should' do 'x'. Use of the word 'should' rather than 'shall' recognizes that the standards are intended to be followed in most instances, but that exceptions may be justified in particular instances. The practice of law varies on a case-by-case basis and the standards may not apply equally to each and every case. A deviation from the standards is not necessarily equivalent to a violation of a lawyer's ethical duties, nor does a deviation from the standards necessarily result in the provision of ineffective assistance of counsel or professional malpractice.

The Standards in Chapters 1 and 2 were adapted primarily from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association Performance Guidelines for Criminal Defense Representation (1994), (referred to hereinafter as NLADA Guidelines) with the permission of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA). Their purpose and intent is perhaps best expressed by the NLADA in its Introduction to the NLADA Guidelines:

Defending criminal cases is an increasingly complex and difficult job.

The unending variety of factual situations presented by criminal cases and the constant changes in criminal law and procedure

require that the attorney approach each new case with a fresh outlook. These complexities also make the drafting of general performance guidelines a difficult and challenging task. But there are procedures common to all criminal cases with which the attorney must be familiar in order to be able to incorporate and best utilize the varying facts and law of each individual case. The object of these Guidelines is to alert the attorney to possible courses of action that may be necessary, advisable, or appropriate, and thereby to assist the attorney in deciding upon the particular actions that must be taken in a case to ensure that the client receives the best representation possible. While these Guidelines will perhaps be most useful to the new attorney or the attorney who does not have significant experience in criminal cases, they also may be profitably examined by the experienced defense attorney in deciding upon the strategy and approach to a given case. (Footnote omitted.)

The above-stated purpose and intent also underlie the standards set forth in Chapters 3 and 4 regarding representation in juvenile dependency and civil commitment proceedings.

The NLADA Guidelines, while cautioning counsel not to become complicit in a system that routinizes questionable practice, state the following with respect to the manner in which the guidelines should be interpreted:

These Guidelines do not say that defense counsel can never engage in plea negotiations without the client's prior consent ..., just as they do not say counsel must always interview a client prior to bail/bond proceedings concerning the client's release ..., or even before preliminary hearing ....But counsel's paramount obligation ... does require that counsel not merely accept, on behalf of a client, systemic forces that are harmful to the client's interests. (Footnote 12, page 75, NLADA Guidelines.)

Finally, simply applying the 'Principles and Standards' to counsel will not by itself ensure quality representation, fairness and justice.

First, it is important to recognize that judicial administrators, trial judges, prosecutors and other system components play pivotal roles in the successful implementation of these 'Principles and Standards'. All justice system 'players' need to consider and incorporate the standards into their own practices and policies to enable counsel to meet these standards and to assure the system operates as an integrated whole in the delivery of justice.

Second, in those cases involving indigent persons, sufficient funding must be provided by the state. Without adequate funds, the goals of these 'Principles and Standards' will not be reached and the justice system as a whole will suffer.