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Notable Recent Publications, March 2024

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


DeNike, M. Equitable Defense: Holistic Defense for Court-Appointed Counsel Cases.

A number of studies point to disparities in criminal justice outcomes based on whether indigent defendants are represented by a public defender or a court-appointed private attorney. As more and more public defender’s offices adopt holistic defense models, there is a danger that the gap in defense quality will further widen. Research on the effectiveness of holistic defense irrefutably establishes that the inclusion of social workers on defense teams results in more options for judges, less jail and prison time for defendants, and increased access to treatment. In San Francisco, the public defender’s office has a long tradition of implementing highly effective defense by incorporating social workers. Meanwhile, defendants who cannot be represented by the public defender due to conflicts (in cases with co-defendants, for example) are represented by attorneys who do not have the same resources at their disposal. This position paper 1) reviews research showing differential outcomes for clients represented by court-appointed private counsel, 2) examines the literature on holistic defense, and 3) draws upon interviews with San Francisco justice system stakeholders to make the case that defendants represented by court-appointed private counsel should be afforded equal access to social workers as part of their defense teams. 

New Final Report Release on Access to Counsel Prior to Interrogation by Jeanette Hussemann and Genevieve Ray The first study in California to provide legal counsel to youth prior to waiving their right to silence. All reports can be found here: Advancing the Case for Early Access to Counsel in Police Precincts | NORC at the University of Chicago


Hartley, R. D., Freeman, K. R., & Peterson, B. (2024). Judging Federal Defense Systems: Does The Type of Counsel Representing Defendants Influence Outcomes in Federal District Court? Albany Law Review87(3).

The current study aims to examine the effects of the type of counsel representing a defendant on case-processing outcomes in federal district court. Are there differences in the quality of representation as indicated by significantly different outcomes for indigent defendants represented by CJA appointed counsel as opposed to federal public defender organizations? Further, do defendants represented by private attorneys receive more lenient outcomes than their indigent counterparts? Finally, are there differences in court outcomes based on the availability of counsel, as measured by the percentage of cases at the district level represented by FPDs, CJA attorneys, or privately retained attorneys?

This research employs multilevel regression modeling to analyze the influence of these types of counsel on three important federal court decision-making stages—pretrial detention, incarceration, and sentence length—net of relevant legal, case processing, defendant, and district-level controls using five years of Federal Justice Statistics Program (FJSP) data. By linking court and sentencing data from the FJSP to create measures of counsel type at the individual and district level, this study advances the prior literature in examining the influence of the type of counsel in the federal criminal court context.