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Trial Judges’ Perceptions of North Carolina’s Office of Indigent Defense Services: A Report on Survey Results (Mar 2016)

“We asked the 80 judges who responded “Yes” to the question to describe the impact of the rate reductions on the quality of indigent representation they had observed; of all the open-ended questions in our survey, this one received the most responses. Fifty-nine of the 66 responding judges indicated that the quality of representation had suffered. Forty-four of these respondents attributed this to better, more experienced attorneys removing their names from the appointment lists, leaving more indigent defendants and respondents to be represented by less experienced—and, in some cases, less competent—attorneys.”

“Two of the most striking survey results were (1) the 80 of 119 judges who observed an impact on the quality of representation provided by assigned counsel that they attribute to the 2011 reduction in rates paid to such counsel and (2) the 59 of 66 judges who indicated in a follow-up question that the quality of indigent representation had suffered as a result. In their comments, judges raised concerns about experience, availability, and preparation. In other words, they associated the rate reductions with several of the key concerns they had described in response to earlier questions about their satisfaction with IDS administration of indigent defense. This further indicates that decisions related to PAC compensation rates can affect the overall quality of indigent representation.”