State Public Defender Briefing
COMMITTEE ON JOINT JUDICIARY
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02:15 PM -- Office of the State Public Defender Briefing
Doug Wilson, Office of the State Public Defender (OSPD), distributed an handout and introduced his office (Attachment E). The OSPD is appointed by the court to represent indigent persons charged with crimes where there is a possibility of being jailed or imprisoned. Mr. Wilson stated that the OSPD is approximately 40 percent understaffed, given the number of cases it is assigned. It handles approximately 71 percent of the felony cases in the state and it receives 39 percent of the funding of the state district attorneys offices. He provided a short explanation of the Rothgery v. Gillespie County case, in which the United States Supreme Court held that a criminal defendant’s initial appearance before a magistrate or judge, where he learns the charge against him and his liberty is subject to restriction, marks the initiation of proceedings that trigger attachment of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. This requires the court to appoint counsel to indigent defendants prior to their first appearance before a judge, which Colorado does for felony cases, but not misdemeanor cases. Mr. Wilson expressed his concern that the state will eventually be sued for not providing adequate counsel under Rothgery. He drew the committee's attention to the briefing document, which contains a letter to the Joint Budget Committee outlining some changes that could be made to existing statute in order to bring the state into compliance with Rothgery.
Mr. Wilson responded to questions from the committee about understaffing in the OSPD. The committee discussed the training of new public defenders, especially in rural areas. The training is established and set at the state level and all new hires receive the same level of training prior to being placed in an office. All public defenders receive mandatory core training after being placed in an office. Mr. Wilson responded to a question regarding the ethical dilemmas posed by high caseload burdens. The committee discussed the possibilities of having grievances filed as a result of those potential ethical violations.
The committee discussed the cost of discovery reproduction and transcripts of proceedings.
Senator Morse adjourned the meeting of the Joint Judiciary Committees and announced that the House Judiciary Committee would meet immediately.