Thursday, July 14, 2011

Performance Guidelines in Criminal Cases

Criminal defense lawyers face unique problems and challenges. The criminal law is complex. Criminal procedure is complex. Every case presents legal and factual problems that can only be solved through time, effort, and expense. Unlike prosecutors, court-appointed defense lawyers have no easy access to investigators, experts, or even the fact witnesses.

The State Bar Board of Directors adopted the "Performance Guidelines for Non-Capital Criminal Defense Representation" in January 2011. The Guidelines are a step-by-step guide to what lawyers should do in defending criminal cases. They remind attorneys that certain actions should be considered in every case regardless of the funding issues, or problems in local practice. Similarly, the Guidelines remind judges and county officials that lawyers have work to do and steps to take and that defenders must be paid no matter how constrained counties feel about their budgets.

The right to counsel is the most basic guarantee of our criminal justice system. Without a good lawyer, innocent citizens may be convicted of crimes they did not commit and people who need another chance may never get one. The Guidelines encourage defense lawyers to perform to a high standard of representation and to promote professionalism in the representation of persons accused of crime.

1 comment:

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