Board Resolution ~ 02/21/2004(4)

Responding to Massachusetts Indigent Defense Crisis

Resolution of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Responding to Massachusetts Indigent Defense Crisis

February 21, 2004

A. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) observes:

1. That the Massachusetts Legislature has chronically underfunded the state assigned counsel system.

2. That hourly rates for assigned counsel are the third lowest in the nation and that ancillary services are constitutionally inadequate.

3. That Massachusetts has had as was readily anticipated a budget shortfall in authorizing funds for assigned lawyers in fiscal year 2003 which has resulted in assigned lawyers remaining unpaid for several months for services they had already rendered.

4. That Massachusetts has again underfunded the assigned counsel system for fiscal year 2004, and will again be unable to fulfill the state’s constitutional obligation to provide indigent persons with the right to counsel.

5. That we deplore the continued and chronic underfunding of the right to counsel by the Massachusetts Legislature.

THEREFORE, the NACDL:

1. Urges that the Massachusetts Legislature grant the necessary funds to adequately sustain the right to counsel in each and every fiscal year.

2. Encourages each assigned attorney to determine individually whether to continue to accept cases as his/her conscience dictates, consistent with ethical obligations, applicable law and with respect for the constitutional right of counsel. 

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