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NLADA - 1140 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 900 -  Washington, DC 2003 - ph. 202-452-0620


For Immediate Release
Stacy Mayuga
(202) 452-0620, ext. 230

Washington, DC, February 7, 2002 — The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) is pleased to announce that the “Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System,” based on a set of criteria originally developed by NLADA received the imprimatur of the American Bar Association (ABA) on Tuesday.

The ABA House of Delegates adopted the principles in the form of a resolution at its mid-year meeting in Philadelphia. The resolution declares that the principles, which were distilled from the voluminous body of national standards by NLADA, the ABA and other entities over the past quarter century, are the “fundamental criteria to be met for a public defense delivery system to deliver effective and efficient, high quality, ethical, conflict-free representation to accused persons who cannot afford to hire an attorney.” It calls upon every state and local jurisdiction to use the principles “to assess promptly the needs of its public defense delivery system and clearly communicate those needs to policy makers.”

“The ABA’s action could be a turning point in our efforts to address the uneven – and frequently appallingly underfunded – quality of legal representation received by people who cannot afford counsel and who are facing criminal charges in America,” said NLADA President and CEO Clint Lyons. “Never before has there been such a concise and authoritative statement of the key components of an effective public defense system, in plain language accessible to busy non-lawyer policymakers. The ABA’s endorsement of these principles reinforces the importance of maintaining a balanced justice system and highlights the critical role that public defense plays in ensuring equal access to justice.”

The 10 principles for competent and efficient public defense systems are as follows: (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 confidential space with 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; and (10) Defense counsel is supervised and systematically reviewed for quality and efficiency according to nationally and locally adopted standards.

An earlier version of the principles, the “Ten Commandments of Public Defense Delivery Systems” was published by the U.S. Department of Justice in December 2000 as an introduction to the Compendium of Standards for Indigent Defense Systems. To obtain a copy, visit the NLADA Web site at

For more information, contact Scott Wallace, NLADA director of Defender legal services, at (202) 452-0620 ext. 212 or via e-mail at

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The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA), founded in 1911, is the oldest and largest national, nonprofit membership organization devoting all of its resources to advocating equal access to justice for all Americans. NLADA champions effective legal assistance for people who cannot afford counsel, serves as a collective voice for both civil legal services and public defense services throughout the nation and provides a wide range of services and benefits to its individual and organizational members.