Federal Criminal Justice:

Cost of Providing Court-Appointed Attorneys Is Rising, but Causes Are Unclear

GGD-95-182: Published: Jul 19, 1995. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the Defender Services program, focusing on: (1) the causes of the program's increased workload and costs; and (2) whether death penalty resource centers (DPRC) have reduced the federal costs of representing indigent defendants in death penalty cases.

GAO found that: (1) the Defender Services program represents individual defendants rather than cases and during fiscal years (FY) 1990 through 1993 there was an average of 1.4 defendants per criminal case filed; (2) the Defender Services program workload has grown and costs have increased because the number of defendants have increased and the cases have become more complex, resulting in more work for attorneys in each case; (3) there was insufficient data to determine why overall program costs doubled and DPRC costs tripled between FY 1990 and FY 1993; (4) federal public defender and community defender organization representations cost less than panel attorney representations, although the cost advantage has gradually declined; and (5) death penalty representations accounted for 0.6 percent of all panel attorney representations closed in FY 1993, but accounted for 8.7 percent of all panel attorney payments.

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