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Notable Recent Publications, November 2019

Notable Recent Publications features the latest empirical research and data related to indigent defense. Should you have suggestions, ideas for work that should be included, or trouble accessing any of the articles featured, please write to


Milan Das – Impediments to Independence: How the Workplace Culture of Public Defender Offices Negatively Affects the Representation of Indigent Defendants. Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, vol 32, pp.469-481.

[From the article:] “Part I of this Note will discuss the problematic elements of the organization of indigent defense systems across the country. It will focus on how public defender offices are assigned cases; how the office is subjected to administrative oversight; and the means by which public defenders are remunerated (or not). In Part II, this Note will attempt to use organizational sociology to argue that many of the structural elements of indigent defense systems discussed in Part I-especially those related to the leadership of defender offices-create and perpetuate an office culture hostile to the independence of attorneys in their representation of indigent clients, one that saddles attorneys with unmanageable caseloads and violates the rules of professional conduct. This Note will conclude that, until structural reforms are enacted to ensure that their leadership is free from corrupting influence and their independence is protected, public defender offices will continue to force attorneys to neglect their ethical obligations. Such structural reforms include establishing independent oversight boards, enacting standardized procedures for attorney appointment and compensation, and insulating the institutional leadership of public defender officers from undue political influence.”

Theodore Wilson – The Promise of BehavioralEconomics for Understanding Decision-Making in the Court. Criminology & Public Policy, online first.

Decision‐making scholars often limit their purview to the decision to offend, whereas sentencing scholars focus on court case processing within administrative data sets. What is missing between these two camps is an incorporation of the sanctioning process into offender decision‐making and an integration of relevant findings from offender decision‐making and behavioral economics into courtroom actor decision‐making. In this article, I highlight several specific concepts from behavioral economics that can be applied to the court and interpret existing sentencing research in light of these same behavioral economic concepts. I also discuss how sentencing scholarship can be integrated into offender decision‐making research, further bridging the two domains. I conclude with discussions of policy adaptations based on current and future research expanding into these proposed areas.

NLADA Innovative Solutions Website and Reports

National Legal Aid and Defender Association – InnovativeSolutions in Public Defense Initiative

This site refers to ten reports:
  • One assesses the impact of attorney mentoring programs in two jurisdictions;
  • One discusses research partnerships in defense
  • Six are ‘fact sheets’ on policy innovations in NY, KY, CA (twice), TX, and WI;
  • One summarizes the results from all six sites;
  • One, on Federal funding, is forthcoming.

Susan Saab Fortney – Assigned Counsel MentoringPrograms: Results and Lessons from Two Pilot Projects

[From the introduction:] “Although growing in number, mentoring programs with coordinated oversight and program administration are still rare.4 Therefore, the principal purpose of this project was to implement and evaluate two pilot mentoring programs, to share lessons learned, and to offer recommendations for others interested in establishing effective mentoring opportunities. This report describes and evaluates pilot projects for assigned counsel mentoring in Lubbock County, Texas and in Westchester County, New York.  Any new mentoring program should be evaluated to obtain information on the program’s effectiveness and impact. Insights from a program’s evaluation can help improve existing programs and inform the implementation of new mentoring programs in other jurisdictions.   The balance of this report contains three chapters that provide: 1) descriptions of the pilot programs implemented, 2) findings from their evaluations, and 3) lessons learned and recommendations for others seeking to implement assigned counsel mentoring programs.”

Jack Cutrone – Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships:Applying a Collaborative Model to Improve Indigent Defense Systems

[From the introduction:] “This paper shares observations and advice about the use of practitioner-researcher partnerships as a mechanism for improving indigent defense systems. Chapter 1 discusses the gradual shift toward use of evidence-based interventions to assess indigent defense services. Chapter 2 profiles the goals and contours of the six Innovative Solutions Initiative projects. Finally, Chapter 3 offers lessons learned from the six projects and condenses information gathered from the sites into a road map to help those who seek to begin a researcher-practitioner partnership in indigent defense action research.”

Innovative Solutions in Public Defense Fact Sheet Series


National Legal Aid and Defender Association – SystemsDevelopment Committee Rapid Response Research Team

[From the website:] “The Systems Development and Reform (SDR) Committee offers a free resource aimed at helping chief public defenders from small to mid-sized offices who lack in-house research and I.T. capacity. The SDR Committee’s Rapid Response Research Team is a core group of experienced researchers and technologists recruited from various organizations, including the Indigent Defense Research Association, who can provide consultation and offer suggestions about research and data projects that public defenders hope to undertake. Examples of areas of expertise among rapid response team members include defender program case management systems, data collection, data visualization, research, and evaluation. The assistance is a perfect jumping off point, for example, when deciding how to move forward with a research project idea, or to get expert views on case management system upgrades. 

“To access the Rapid Response Research Team please complete this form briefly describing the issue for which you would like consultation.  NLADA staff will forward the request to the Rapid Response Research Team participants and see who has capacity and expertise to respond. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible.”