Right to Counsel Legislation Updates


US HR 3741: National Center for the Right to Counsel Act

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Theodore Deutch (D-FL) on 07/12/2019, establishes the National Center for the Right to Counsel to improve the delivery of indigent legal services by supporting public defense systems and training programs. It was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security from the House Committee on the Judiciary on 08/06/2019.


CA AB 685: Juveniles: Indian Tribes: Counsel

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Elouise Reyes (D), requires the State Bar of California to administer grants to legal service projects and support centers in order to provide legal services to Indian tribes for child welfare matters. At the request of the tribe, the court of appeals must appoint separate counsel for a child’s tribe in any appellate proceeding involving an Indian child. In addition, the bill expands training required for appointed counsel to include the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 and cultural competency relating to out-of-home care for Indian children. The bill was sent to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary 06/06/2019.

CA SB 144: Criminal Fees

This bill, sponsored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D), repeals the court’s authority to make a post-trial determination of a defendant’s ability to pay the costs of the public defender, order a defendant to pay these costs, or impose liens on a defendant’s property. By requiring a county to provide a public defender without charge to defendants who may have the ability to pay, this bill imposes a state-mandated local program. The bill passed the Senate on 05/29/2019 and was sent to the Assembly Committee on Public Safety on 06/06/2019.

IL H 2928: County Bail Reform Provisions

Sponsored by Rep. Justin Slaughter (D), this bill appropriates $3,500,000 from the General Revenue Fund to the State Appellate Defender for a grant program to assist counties in providing public defense providers to implement the bail reform provisions of Public Act 100-1. This Act, known as “The Bail Reform Act of 2017,” states that “a person charged with an offense shall be allowed counsel at the hearing at which bail is determined,” and if they are unable to obtain counsel, the court will appoint a public defender. The bill was re-referred to the House Rules Committee on 07/02/2019. The Senate version of this bill, SB 1606, was introduced by Sen. Elgie Sims (D) and re-referred to the Senate Assignments Committee on 07/03/2019. Neither bill has gotten out of the first committee.

IL H 2935: Juvenile Court Appointment of Counsel (Update)

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Morgan (D), this bill amends the Juvenile Court Act and states that counsel appointed for the minor and any indigent party shall appear at all stages of the trial court proceeding and the same counsel shall continue through the permanency hearings and termination of parental rights proceedings. It was enacted on 07/26/2019 and becomes effective 01/01/2020.

ME HB 1208: Right to Counsel for Juveniles (Update) This bill, sponsored by Rep. Victoria E. Morales (D), prevents children under 12 from being prosecuted for juvenile crimes, prevents children under 14 from being committed, and establishes that juveniles between the ages of 14 and 17 may only be committed if absolutely necessary. Juveniles have a right to counsel at first appearance and the court may appoint a public defender if the court feels that the interests of the juvenile need to be protected. Counsel continues representing the juvenile through all proceedings. If a disposition of commitment is decided, the court must explicitly state the reasons; if it does not, there are grounds for appeal as an abuse of discretion. The bill did not get out of the first committee and will be carried over into the next session.

NV AB 81: Indigent Defendants Legal Representation Oversight (Update)

This bill, introduced by the Assembly Committee on the Judiciary, creates the Office of Indigent Defense Services to oversee indigent criminal defense services, as well as the Board on Indigent Defense Services to oversee the Office. The Board establishes the maximum amount a county may be required to pay for indigent defense services. The bill also allows for the transfer of responsibility for the provision of indigent defense services from a county not required to have an office of public defender to the State if the board of county commissioners agree. It was enacted on 06/10/2019 and goes into effect on 10/01/2019.

NY SB 6004: Hourly Compensation Rate for Assigned Counsel

Sponsored by Sen. Jamaal Bailey (D), this bill amends the County Law by doubling the hourly compensation rate for assigned counsel and subjecting it to an annual cost of living increase. This rate has not been adjusted since 2003, at which time it was lowered. The bill was amended in the Senate Committee on Local Government on 06/13/2019.

OR HB 3145: Public Defense Service Improvement Study (Update)

This bill, sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee, establishes the Task Force on Public Defense to review requirements and best practices regarding public defense services in municipal and justice court proceedings, and to produce a report with recommendations for the Legislative Assembly by 12/31/2020. Upon passage, this Act would declare an emergency to emphasize the importance of the Act to “public peace, health and safety.” The bill failed to pass the Senate on 06/29/2019 with a vote of 0-27.

OR SB 1010: Criminal Defendant Cost Payment Prohibition

This bill, sponsored by the Senate Judiciary Committee, prohibits courts from requiring a criminal defendant to pay costs associated with appointed counsel unless the defendant is convicted of a crime. It did not make it out of committee and died upon session adjournment on 06/30/2019.

TX HB 1323 (Update)

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Murr (R), makes “clear and convincing evidence” that bail and conditions of release are insufficient to ensure appearance in court and public safety the standard for denying bail. The bill would also mandate the use of a risk assessment tool when deciding pretrial release or the use of bail. Both this bill and its Senate companion SB 628 failed upon session adjournment on 05/27/2019.

VT HB 342: Qualification for a Public Defender

This bill, sponsored by Rep. Selene Colburn (D), requires that public defense services be available to any person charged with a crime, not just those charged with serious crimes. Any “needy person” detained by law enforcement without charge or judicial process, or who is charged with a crime of any level is entitled to counsel. The bill will be carried over into the next session.

WA SB 5819: Postconviction Review Board

This bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille (D), establishes a postconviction review board and review process for the early release of offenders who qualify. Those determined to be indigent have the right to counsel when petitioning for release under this bill. To qualify, offenders must have served 15 to 20 consecutive years, or must be at least 60 years old and have served half of their sentence. The bill will be carried over into the next session.