The ABA Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System were sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal and Indigent Defendants and approved by the ABA House of Delegates in February 2002. The Principles were created as a practical guide for governmental officials, policymakers, and other parties who are charged with creating and funding new, or improving existing, public defense delivery systems. The Principles constitute the fundamental criteria necessary to design a system that provides effective, efficient, high quality, ethical, conflict-free legal representation for criminal defendants who are unable to afford an attorney.
ABA Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System
1. The public defense function, including the selection, funding, and payment of defense counsel, is independent.
2. Where the caseload is sufficiently high, the public defense delivery system consists of both a defender office and the active participation of the private bar.
3. Clients are screened for eligibility, and defense counsel is assigned and notified of appointment, as soon as feasible after clients’ arrest, detention, or request for counsel.
4. Defense counsel is provided sufficient time and a confidential space within which to meet with the client.
5. Defense counsel’s workload is controlled to permit the rendering of quality representation.
6. Defense counsel’s ability, training, and experience match the complexity of the case.
7. The same attorney continuously represents the client until completion of the case.
8. There is parity between defense counsel and the prosecution with respect to resources and defense counsel is included as an equal partner in the justice system.
9. Defense counsel is provided with and required to attend continuing legal education.
10. Defense counsel is supervised and systematically reviewed for quality and efficiency according to nationally and locally adopted standards.