David Giacalone, who has consistently advocated for competent counsel for indigent defendants, writes:
[I]ndigent defendants are far more likely to receive consistently competent representation in a system with full-time public defenders (with statewide monitoring and funding) than from situations that rely heavily on assigned counsel.
Is this true? Should a state concerned with defendants' rights provide more funding for a public defender system than for one relying on court-appointed counsel?
Most people I know work (or want to work) for the public defender's office long enough to do 20 or 30 trials. Afterwards, they plan on going into private pratice. This might mean that many public defenders have little experience.
However, public defenders, unlike court-appointed lawyers, strictly ensure that a PD's experience is appropriate for the crime charged. Thus, junior PDs begin by working only on arraignments and client interviews; then they handle only probable cause hearings; then they try misdemeanor cases; and only after years do they move up to trying more serious criminal cases.
With a court-appointed system, even a green court-appointed attorney could draw a serious offense. Excluding death cases, it's not uncommon for a fresh court-appointed attorney to represent someone who is facing many years in prison.
Which is better? Is Mr. Giacalone right?