Guidelines for Indigent Defense Caseloads


Guidelines for Indigent Defense Caseloads


The Weighted Caseload Study was prepared by the Public Policy Research Institute (PPRI) with a Preface by Norman Lefstein, Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law (Click "Download PDF" button)

From the Executive Summary

House Bill (HB) 1318, passed by the 83rd Texas Legislature, instructed the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (TIDC) to "conduct and publish a study for the purpose of determining guidelines for establishing a maximum allowable caseload for a criminal defense attorney that... allows the attorney to give each indigent defendant the time and effort necessary to ensure effective representation." In response to this directive, TIDC determined to conduct a weighted caseload study. This methodology accounts for variation in the amount of attorney time required to defend different types of cases. Unlike other weighted caseload studies, this was the first to include time spent by private assigned counsel. It sought to answer two important questions:

1. How much time "is" currently being spent on the defense of court-appointed criminal cases?
2. How much time "should" be spent to achieve reasonably effective representation?

Weighted Caseload Study

Texas' weighted caseload study began with input from an Advisory Panel of indigent defense stakeholders convened in late 2013. These included national caseload experts, national indigent defense practitioners, Texas Indigent Defense Commissioners, criminal defense attorneys, legislators, state agency representatives, and other stakeholder constituencies with an interest in indigent defense. Their expertise helped research staff integrate diverse perspectives and clarify direction for the Texas study.

Three complementary data collection approaches were used for the study. These included a Timekeeping Study, a Time Sufficiency Survey, and final recommendations generated using the Delphi Method. Investigation was limited to adult-trial level cases, ranging from Class B misdemeanors through first degree felonies. Eight different task categories were used to describe attorneys' use of time. These included communication with clients or their families, interaction with the court, discovery or investigation by the attorney, time spent by a private or public defender investigator, legal research and trial preparation, negotiations or meetings related to litigation issues, social work assistance for clients, and case-specific office support.