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Notable Recent Publications - September, 2022

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

IDRA videos

The Post-Pandemic Criminal Courts, Prof. Elizabeth Webster.


Suzanne St. George, Colleen Sullivan, Breanne E. Wylie, Kelly McWilliams, Angela D. Evans, Stacia N. Stolzenberg. Did Your Mom Help You Remember?: An Examination of Attorneys’ Subtle Questioning About Suggestive Influence to Children Testifying About Child Sexual Abuse  Vol 37, issue 15-16, Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

"[A]ttorneys, and defense attorneys, in particular, may be motivated to ask about suggestive influence and truthfulness in subtle ways, such as with implied meaning (e.g., “Did your mom help you remember?”).... We examined 7,103 lines of questioning asked by prosecutors and defense attorneys to 64 children testifying about alleged child sexual abuse. We found that 9% of all attorneys’ lines of questioning asked about suggestive influence or truthfulness.... Indirect accusations of suggestive influence spanned a range of subtleties and topics, including addressing conversational influences (e.g., coaching), incidental influences (e.g., witnessing abuse), and others.... [D]efense attorneys were less likely than prosecutors to ask about suggestive influence and truthfulness overtly.... [A]ttorneys commonly ask about suggestive influence and truthfulness in subtle ways that developing children may struggle to understand, and which may result in affirmations of influence, even when allegations are true."

Michael L. Perlin, Talia Roitberg Harmon, Haleigh Kubiniec.'The World of Illusion Is at My Door': Why Panetti v. Quarterman Is a Legal Mirage

"Some fifteen years ago, in Panetti v. Quarterman...the Supreme Court ruled that a mentally ill defendant had a constitutional right to make a showing that his mental illness “obstruct[ed] a rational understanding of the State’s reason for his execution.”... [We] consider how all federal circuits have interpreted Panetti, and we find that Panetti has never - with the exception of one case, later vacated - been a remedy upon which defendants with serious mental illness facing the death penalty could rely. We analyze all the circuit-level Panetti decisions, and consider the case law through a therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) filter, concluding that this body of cases violates all TJ precepts, and offer a series of recommendations – as to issues related to adequacy of counsel, the need for databases of experts competent to testify in such matters, the need for other scholars to study the cases we discuss here, and to seek to breathe new life into arguments made some years ago barring the death penalty in all cases of defendants with serious mental illness - to, we hope, ameliorate this situation in the future." 


Anthony Duarte, Sophia Hunt, and Matthew Clair, Attorney-client relationships in a criminal court in Santa Clara County, California. Report #2, Court Listening Project. 

"This report describes—and offers recommendations for improving—the quality of attorney-client relationships in a criminal courthouse in Santa Clara County, California. We draw on in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations collected between July 2021 and June 2022 from the Hall of Justice, one of four state courthouses in Santa Clara County that deals with adult criminal cases. Interviews with a diverse sample of 37 defendants suggest that they hold mostly positive views of their relationships with defense attorneys, though such perceptions vary by type of counsel and income. Moreover, among those who hold positive perceptions of their current defense lawyers, some defendants expressed negative attitudes toward, and recounted negative experiences with, current and previous lawyers. Ethnographic observations of public court proceedings further reveal recurring negative attorney-client relationship attributes, including silencing and sidelining, miscommunication, brevity of interaction, and cooperation with the state (or, coercion). We conclude with several immediate and long-range suggestions for improving the quality of defense provision in the county."


Bianca Ortiz-Miskimen, Challenging the Notion of Court Neutrality: An Empirical Study of the Role of Former Prosecutor Judges in Upholding Qualified Immunity within the US Court of Appeals, Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

"...While prosecutors and other government advocates continue to be overrepresented on the judiciary, their peers who work in individual advocacy as public defenders and attorneys for civil rights groups have historically been disregarded as nominees.... [This thesis examines] whether the presence of prosecutor and defender judges on three-judge panels of the United States Court of Appeals has a causal effect on the outcome of cases...  I created two novel datasets of appellate qualified immunity cases and performed quantitative analysis on case holdings and voting behavior. Ultimately, I find that prosecutor judges are more likely to vote pro-qualified immunity and that the presence of a prosecutor judge increases the likelihood that a panel will vote pro-qualified immunity..."

"[L]ittle research has been done on the specific experiences of those who are required to interact with the capital punishment system via their professions... Using original qualitative interview data (N=10 [includes defense attorneys]), this research examines different ways professionals in the sector experience emotions related to the capital punishment process. Findings show that the professionals perform emotional labor and emotional management, which can result in long-term emotional exhaustion and burnout. Findings also indicate that these professionals harness their emotions for internal motivation."