Under the Dome

Indigent Defense Services loses independence under budget

UPDATED: The state office that provides legal services to poor people accused of committing crimes will lose its independence.

Indigent Defense Services will be moved into the Administrative Office of the Courts, which holds the purse strings for all the judges, prosecutors and court clerks in the state.

The AOC would control its budget, under this plan. However, both the House and Senate budgets would have let IDS control its own budget. So there was no conflict on that issue for the conference committee to resolve. In other words, it was written into the budget at the last minute and apparently should not have been.

IDS and the Innocence Inquiry Commission will be studied and a report issued to the General Assembly next year.

The budget tries to reduce a shortfall of several years that has seen IDS unable to pay private counsel assigned to represent indigent defendants when funding runs out before the end of the fiscal year. Budget-wirters noted that creates a hardship for small legal firms. The budget identifies $3.4 million for the current fiscal year and $4.4 million for the next.

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