– National Advisory Commission (1973)
The most commonly cited guidelines for public defender attorneys were proposed forty years ago by the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals. Today there are concerns about the adequacy of the “NAC Standards” to ensure the delivery of a reasonable defense. The NAC Standards…
- Are entirely based on the opinions of committee members rather than evidence of time required by attorneys.
- Weight all felony or misdemeanor cases the same regardless of seriousness
- Do not account for contextual factors such as urban vs. rural practice
- Do not account for changes in defense-related policies and practices over time
- Seriousness and complexity of the charges
- Use of forensic evidence or science in the defense
- Chance of high-consequence sentencing
- Possible collateral consequences of conviction (e.g., deportation, housing, employment, supervision, and reporting requirements)
- Attorney experience and access to support staff
- Jurisdiction practices (e.g., indigent defense delivery systems; attorney compensation; use of specialty courts; diversion policies)
Weighted caseload studies in Texas and elsewhere represent an important step toward ensuring diligent legal representation is available for all who stand accused. A number of states – Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Washington State, to name a few – have already developed evidence-based caseload standards through weighted caseload studies. Some examples of these studies can be found here.