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Notable Recent Publications - November, 2020

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


Andrew Davies, Victoria Smiegocki and Hannah Hall, The Court is in Recession: On the Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Indigent Defense Spending. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law.

"What is the likely effect of the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic on indigent defense budgets in the United States? To look forward, we look backward. We examine data on county-level spending on indigent defense in Texas during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. Redistributive policies – those which use tax payer funds to support individuals who themselves pay little or no tax – are particularly susceptible to cuts during times of fiscal stress. Yet our analysis shows indigent defense policy, measured in terms of spending and access to counsel rates, was generally stable through the Great Recession years, even in counties hit hardest. We attribute this apparent stability to two general explanations. First, certain factors made Texas unique: expenditures on indigent defense were already relatively low prior to 2007 and legal changes in the state shored up the mandate to supply representation. And second, the characterization of indigent defense itself as redistributive seems faulty. Indigent defense policy is also, in an important sense, a set of mutually-beneficial transactions between lawyers and judges, occurring with comparatively little oversight. The resilience of indigent defense services during times of scarcity suggests it is not only a policy which allocates funds to help the poor, but also is a policy which allocates funds in support of another clientele – the lawyers." 

Rodrigo M. Nunes, Access to Justice and the Legal Complex: Building a Public Defenders’ Office in Brazil. Journal of Politics in Latin America.

"Latin American democracies have developed institutions to empower citizens against the state. This article brings attention to an often overlooked, but key, actor in these processes: the legal complex. I argue that the content of reforms designed to strengthen the rule of law partially reflects the interests of politically influential collective legal actors. Political influence is defined as a function of alliances with civil society and embeddedness within decision-making arenas of the state. To develop this argument, the article analyses the slow building of Brazil’s Public Defenders’ Office (PDO). I argue that the office’s initial institutional weakness resulted from defenders’ fragile political position relative to that of prosecutors and the bar during Brazil’s constitutional transition. Its eventual strengthening sixteen years later resulted from changes to the legal complex alliance in its favour, the formation of connections between defenders and civil society, and increased PDO access to policymaking spaces." 

Richard Rogers, Amor A. Correa , John W. Donnelly II & Eric Y. Drogin, "Protecting the rights of the accused: use of Spanish-language Miranda warnings in central Florida." Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology.

"Large, systematic investigations of Miranda warnings have evidenced remarkable heterogeneity in length and reading level across American jurisdictions. For Spanish translations, marked disparities were found when compared to the original- English Miranda warnings including awkward wording, mistranslations, and even the complete omission of crucially important Miranda components. To complement these broad studies, the current research provides an in-depth analysis of Miranda warnings used by the 9th Judicial Circuit of central Florida. Based upon 15 side-by side comparisons of Spanish and English warnings, Spanish warnings were longer and required substantially higher reading levels. Three of five Spanish Miranda components on average required a minimum reading level at the Spanish 10th to 12th grade level. Although all original English versions, included the 5th component (Continuing Rights) in the original English, 20% inexplicably failed to do so for the Spanish translations, raising fundamental concerns regarding equal protection under the law for non-English speaking detainees. Community-based initiatives are discussed for improving Spanish translations and increasing Spanish-speaking detainees’ accessibility to legal expertise and forensic consultants."


Station House Counsel: Shifting the Balance of Power Between Citizen and State, Fair Trials.

[From the Introduction] "Arrested people in the US are almost never able to access counsel until, at the earliest, the first court hearing. Until then, they are subject to the unchecked power of the police. By the time an arrested person accesses counsel, key decisions about charge, detention, diversion and dismissal have already been made by authorities, and the machinery of the criminal legal system has already irrevocably begun to grind. As this brief shows, involving defense lawyers earlier can not only provide oversight over arrest, custody and detention but can also have a transformative effect on the entire criminal legal system. Early access to counsel has the potential to disrupt the machinery of criminalization, mass incarceration, and police control."

Genevieve Citrin Ray and Lillian Tuttle, Right to Counsel National Campaign: Stakeholder Engagement Report.

[From page 4] "This document highlights how criminal justice reforms can and should incorporate the voices of public defenders, seeking to elevate the criminal justice reform conversation.1 Working together, criminal justice stakeholders can effectuate change and implement sustainable reforms. This document will identify pressure points in the justice system where we can make real change regarding the state of public defense systems and create a strategic plan for engagement, building on the Right to Counsel National Campaign’s existing theory of change.2 While investment in direct public defense reforms is critically important, investing in and involving public defense providers in systemic reform efforts, such as the ones detailed in this report, are essential for comprehensive, sustainable system change. We then hope to show how defense, instead of being an obstacle to reform or a separate component of the criminal justice system, can be a solution for many criminal justice challenges."

Public Defender Primer, Texas Indigent Defense Commission.

[From the Foreword] "This publication looks at why public defender offices work, profiles Texas public defender offices, and shows how to build a public defender office."