Raise the Proof: A Default Rule for Indigent Defense

By Adam M. Gershowitz / Connecticut Law Review, on 1 January 2007

Almost everyone agrees that indigent defense in America is underfunded, but workable solutions have been hard to come by. For the most part, courts have been unwilling to inject themselves into legislative budget decisions. And, when courts have become involved and issued favorable decisions, the benefits have been only temporary because once the pressure of litigation disappears so does a legislature’s desire to appropriate more funding. This Article proposes that if an indigent defense system is under-funded, the state supreme court should impose a default rule raising the standard of proof to “beyond all doubt” to convict indigent defendants. The legislature would then have the opportunity to opt out of this higher standard of proof by providing enough funding to bring defense lawyers’ caseloads within well-recognized standards or by providing funding parity with prosecutors’ offices. Such an approach will create an incentive for legislatures to adequately fund indigent defense without miring courts in detailed supervision of legislative budget decisions. At the same time, because courts can check once per year to determine whether there is funding parity with prosecutors’ offices or compliance with caseload guidelines, there will be constant pressure on legislatures to maintain adequate funding in order to avoid the higher standard of proof.

  • Document type Article
  • Countries list United States
  • Themes list Networks,