Due Process Services
Report 19-18, December 2019
- In the United States, due process is afforded to every party in a legal action, both civil and criminal. If a criminal defendant is found to be indigent, the state has an obligation to provide certain services to ensure that the defendant receives due process of the law. Due process services for indigent defendants include providing and paying for court reporters, interpreters, expert witnesses, and in certain instances, private court-appointed attorneys. In comparison to other states, Florida has a uniform system of indigent defense representation, as both funding and defense counsel are provided by the state. Additionally, Florida has a three-tier indigent defense model, which includes the Offices of the Public Defender, the Offices of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel (regional conflict counsel), and private court-appointed attorneys.
- Florida has taken several steps to manage due process costs. First, each agency that receives due process funding has established internal accountability mechanisms. Second, the Justice Administrative Commission (JAC) is statutorily authorized to oversee attorney and vendor contracts and payments and can challenge billing irregularities when they occur. Third, the judicial branch has created commissions and workgroups to develop policies related to the efficient and effective functioning of Florida's trial courts. Fourth, the Legislature created regional conflict counsel to provide predictability and contain court-appointed counsel costs. Finally, to preempt shortfalls, the Legislature established budget protocols that detail funding contingencies both within an agency's budget categories as well as across agencies.
- Despite these mechanisms, due process costs can be high and often unpredictable, resulting in funding shortfalls. While due process costs are increasing overall, the vast majority of cases do not incur due process costs beyond defense counsel. By case type, death penalty cases are the most expensive because they require a multi-person legal team and can involve multiple experts and expert witnesses. Recent cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court led to resentencing for a number of offenders sentenced to death or life without parole, resulting in increased due process costs associated with these cases. Looking to other states, options exist to contain costs while preserving the constitutional rights of indigent defendants.
due process, death penalty appeals, conflict counsel, cost containment, indigent defense, expert witness, mitigation, private court-appointment attorneys, criminal conflict and civil regional counsel, public defender, state attorney