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BOISE, IDAHO – Forty-three Idaho counties have submitted applications for Indigent Defense Grants from the Public Defense Commission. The applicant counties are poised to receive over $4.4 million if the applications are approved for the requested amounts. Indigent Defense Grants support Idaho’s counties as they continue to raise the bar for public defense by meeting and exceeding constitutional requirements and standards created collaboratively among the PDC and stakeholders. This is the third consecutive year in which these vital grants will reinforce Idaho counties’ financial commitment to robust public defense.

The grants supplement county indigent defense budgets as counties bear the budgetary burden of the ever-increasing cost of public defense. Applicant counties will leverage these vital funds to ensure representation at first appearances, reduce workloads, improve video capacity especially in Idaho’s rural areas, and increase the use of investigators, among many other things. In the prior two years, counties have utilized the grants for projects including but not limited to ensuring private space for public defenders to meet confidentially with clients, to support continuing legal education for public defenders, and to augment public defense infrastructure by purchasing much-needed computers and software.

The Public Defense Commission will review the grant applications during their regularly scheduled meetings this month (May 8) and next (June 13). PDC meetings are open to the public and are scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.. May’s meeting will be held at the Center of Influence, located in downtown Boise at 805 W. Idaho, Suite 400.

For more information contact the PDC at or 208-332-1735.

BOISE, IDAHO – Boise State’s Idaho Policy Institute, under contract with the State Public Defense Commission, has just completed the most comprehensive study of the public defense system in Idaho to date. Over the course of the past year, public defenders across Idaho tracked time spent on cases and participated in a time sufficiency survey. Then, experts in criminal defense participated in a Delphi Panel to assess how much time attorneys should be spending on different cases.

The report, released today, contains the results of the study that serve as the first step towards the creation of a workload standard by the PDC.

With the collaboration of public defense stakeholders including County Commissioners, County Clerks and Public Defenders, the PDC will work towards the creation of a workload standard that ensures Idaho’s public defenders have adequate time to provide constitutional representation to every one of their indigent clients. The study itself does not recommend a workload standard, but it provides essential qualitative and quantitative data to inform discussions so the development of a workload standard can begin. Data of this kind has been completely unavailable in Idaho until now. Prior to the collection of this data, a report released in 2010 by the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) considered eight (8) Idaho counties and concluded Idaho’s public defenders handled workloads that exceed national standards.

The PDC cautions readers not to jump to conclusions based upon what they read in the report. The PDC’s goal is to support counties as they ensure public defenders can meet constitutional obligations to Idaho’s indigent defendants while providing information to policymakers regarding the resources that will be required for counties to meet those obligations. The PDC is committed to the creation of a workload standard that, as the report insists, considers case complexity, access to resources, and other characteristics of criminal defense cases including, but not limited to, language barriers, legal issues, and travel time. The study and calculation of workload and related workload standards is an ongoing process whose success depends on collaboration with stakeholders. To participate in the negotiation of the PDC’s workload standard, contact the PDC at or 208-332-1735.

BOISE, IDAHO – The PDC disavows the early release of a draft report based upon a recent workload study and cautions any reliance upon it. The PDC is engaged in the creation of rules that will include a workload standard. As a part of that work, the PDC commissioned a study and report by Boise State’s Idaho Policy Institute. Such study is not yet complete and the PDC has not seen a full and final report. Once finalized, the PDC will work with Idaho’s counties, public defenders and other stakeholders to establish meaningful standards that adequately protect the rights of indigent criminal defendants and others appointed an attorney at public expense. Any discussion or conclusions at this point are premature.

The draft report of the Idaho Workload Study was inadvertently released to the Associated Press[i] and an article was subsequently published. The article misquoted Executive Director Kimberly Simmons regarding the numbers and took the numbers included in the draft report out of context. Director Simmons’ comments were in regards to the data collected, not the numbers. Data collection is complete, thus the data will not change.

Boise State researchers caution the use of the draft report: “[D]rafts of the report are just merely that, drafts, and may provide little indication of the data and narrative presented in a final report. Drafts often include mistakes, placeholder data, and language that must be corrected or replaced before a report is finalized. Therefore, any information from any report draft cannot and should not be taken out of context and utilized for anything beyond preparation of the final report.” There is no indication or information available at this time to the Public Defense Commission or its stakeholders on what the workload standard for Idaho will be. The Public Defense Commission is committed to working with the counties and Idaho’s public defenders once the final report is complete to create a workload standard that ensures constitutional representation and takes into consideration the funding that will be required to implement such a standard.

[i] The draft of the workload study is protected from public record disclosure under Idaho Code § 74-107(20).

BOISE, IDAHO – The outpouring of love and support for John Adams in the wake of his passing last week is of no surprise to those in the public defense community in Idaho. He is deservingly described as a warrior, standing tall and fighting for the less fortunate every single day. Affectionately known as “Mikey” to his closest friends and colleagues, he was a kind advocate and person who gave his whole heart to his mission. Before he took up the cause of indigent defense, John served on active duty in the U.S. Navy. That background equipped him with the determination he carried forth in his career. He served as the Kootenai County Public Defender from 1996 to 2017. He was honored in 2010 by the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association for running “what may be the best public defense structure in the state,” and received the Idaho State Bar Outstanding Service Award in 2009 and the ACLU Dave Judy Civil Rights Award in 2014 for his commitment and service to advancing civil rights in Idaho. John also served as a president of the Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and as a board member on gubernatorial task forces under three different Idaho governors.

The State Public Defense Commission was born in 2014 with the substantial support and assistance of John as he had over three decades of experience as a public defender in Idaho. He substantially supported the efforts of the legislative interim Public Defense Reform Committee in the creation of the PDC. A former Kootenai County prosecutor described John as the best public defender in the history of the county, a tough adversary and a dedicated and loyal public servant. “Kootenai County has been privileged to have him at the helm for so many years …” a commissioners’ press release stated in March 2017 when John retired. He “soldiered on despite receiving threats of death, arrest, and an attempt to fire him.” Even after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, he fearlessly and selflessly continued to stand up for Idaho’s indigent citizens. The PDC mourns the loss of this great defending attorney and our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time. We hope that his voice will live on and continue to be heard in support of the mission to improve the indigent defense system in Idaho.

BOISE, IDAHO – The Idaho State Public Defense Commission (PDC) is pleased to announce the hiring of three (3) Regional Coordinators (RCs) to assist with its mission to improve the trial-level indigent defense system in Idaho. The Regional Coordinators will serve as local resources for the counties The PDC is excited to have all three on board and looks forward to their contributions.

Aaron Freudenthal will serve as RC in Judicial Districts One and Two. Mr. Freudenthal is an Idaho native with experience as a defending attorney in child protection law. He gained extensive program development and stakeholder education experience working on special projects, where his responsibilities included developing operating procedures and ensuring legal compliance and quality assurance.

Brianne McCoy will serve as RC in Judicial Districts Three, Four and Five. Ms. McCoy comes directly from a large institutional public defender office in Idaho, where for several years she has become familiar with the difficulties defending attorneys face when forced to make choices between crucial indigent defense tasks such as writing a brief to support a motion to suppress or calling a witness to discuss their testimony. A former financial analyst, she commands substantial knowledge of systems development and strategies for collaborating successfully with stakeholders.

Jared Ricks will serve as RC in Judicial Districts Six and Seven. Mr. Ricks has served as a contract public defender in Idaho since 2012 and has experience representing a local municipality as a city attorney, where he guided elected officials through compliance with often-complex legal and statutory issues.

The PDC, created in 2014 and expanded in 2016, is tasked with improving “the delivery of trial-level indigent defense services by providing funding to counties and creating standards with which counties must comply.” In the last year, the PDC has disbursed over $3.9 million to Idaho’s counties to improve the delivery of indigent defense, collaborated with counties about how to improve indigent defense in their locales, and created the first set of Idaho standards for defending attorneys that address some of the major concerns outlined in a pending ACLU lawsuit. These standards include requiring attorney representation at initial appearance and subsequent vertical representation, establishing basic performance standards for defending attorneys and setting training requirements for defending attorneys. The PDC has also disbursed monies for extraordinary litigation costs to some counties, coordinated four (4) continuing legal education programs for defending attorneys at no cost to the attorneys, and educated county officials through presentations to the Idaho Association of Counties.

In the coming year, the PDC will continue its work to improve indigent defense services in Idaho. Most importantly, the PDC will obtain results from the first meticulous, comprehensive study of Idaho’s indigent defense system. This study, commissioned by the PDC and conducted by Boise State University’s Idaho Policy Institute, will include (1) extensive data collection regarding the many hours attorneys spend on indigent defense cases, (2) a detailed survey of all defending attorneys in the state, and (3) comprehensive polling from a panel of Idaho criminal defense experts. Results are expected to be published later this year and will inform an appropriate workload standard based upon Idaho data. The PDC also looks forward to increased communication and collaboration with stakeholders to bring about relevant changes to support a robust indigent defense delivery system in Idaho, aided by the newly hired Regional Coordinators.

BOISE, IDAHO – The Idaho State Public Defense Commission (PDC) is pleased to announce the creation of Idaho’s first set of standards for public defenders after considerable collaboration with Idaho’s counties and public defenders. The standards, which have been incorporated into an Idaho administrative rule, address public defenders’ presence at a defendant’s first appearance in court, vertical representation, attorney experience and continuing legal education. The pending rule incorporating the standards will be published in the January 4, 2017 volume of the legislative bulletin and will be reviewed by the Idaho Legislature during the 2017 legislative session as a part of the administrative rule review process. The standards will become final only upon legislative approval.

The PDC is particularly pleased to incorporate a standard that requires representation of all indigent defendants at their first appearance in court. Currently, in many counties, indigent defendants face a judge without the assistance of counsel. This provision fulfills the constitutional requirement that the right to counsel applies at all critical stages and will encourage early interviews, investigation and resolution of cases. Additionally, indigent defendants will have an opportunity, through counsel, to effectively argue to be released on bail. In many instances, indigent defendants are spending more time in jail before a determination of guilt than those who have been convicted.

“Vertical representation” refers to the continued handling of a defendant’s case at all critical stages by one attorney. This practice is widely recognized as one that maximizes effective representation for indigent defendants, as it encourages the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, fosters an attorney’s accountability and responsibility in the outcome of a case, decreases the likelihood of omissions of necessary work as a case passes between attorneys, and prohibits a process where clients are re-interviewed by a parade of staff starting from scratch. The incorporated standards encourage this process whenever it is practical.

The rule incorporates a number of provisions regarding a public defender’s abilities, training and experience. Public defenders are encouraged only to take cases that they are experienced enough to handle and required to annually complete continuing legal education hours. Continued legal education ensures that Idaho’s public defenders will be apprised of any changes in the law.

In addition to these performance standards, the PDC also finalized a rule related to training funds the PDC makes available to Idaho’s public defenders. The PDC sponsors or co-sponsors multiple trainings per year and also provides funds for public defenders to attend other trainings. Together, the continuing legal education requirement and available training funds ensure that Idaho’s public defenders are given the opportunity to stay abreast of current developments in the law.

As a whole, the standards represent a necessary first step in improving Idaho’s indigent defense system. The PDC is extremely grateful to all the individuals and entities, particularly Idaho’s counties and public defenders, that provided comment or feedback throughout the negotiated rulemaking process. The PDC is proud to continue the work of improving Idaho’s indigent defense system in a collaborative manner with all of Idaho’s criminal justice stakeholders who take on the important responsibility of providing constitutionally-sound representation for indigent defendants.

The Public Defense Commission was created in 2014 and is codified at Idaho Code § 19‑849. The PDC’s powers and duties were amended in the 2016 legislative session with specific direction for the PDC to engage in the creation of rules related to performance standards for public defenders consistent with Idaho’s Principles for a Public Defense Delivery System, Idaho Code § 19-850(1)(a)(vii). This year, the PDC chose to focus on four areas: representation at a defendant’s first appearance in court, vertical representation, defending attorneys’ abilities, training and experience and continuing legal education. A copy of the pending rule with the incorporated standards are available on the PDC’s website:

BOISE, IDAHO- The Idaho State Public Defense Commission was created in 2014 by House Bill 542 and codified at I.C. § 19-849. The Commission’s powers and duties, delineated in I.C. § 19-850, were amended in the 2016 legislative session by House Bill 504. I.C. § 19-850 directs the Commission to engage in a number of activities.

Under the 2016 legislation, the Commission is to create rules related to the training and performance standards of public defenders consistent with Idaho’s Principles for a Public Defense Delivery System. Additionally, the Commission is empowered to create a model contract for counties that utilize private attorneys for the delivery of indigent defense. The Commission is also directed to establish procedures to reimburse counties for expenses resulting from extraordinarily time-consuming or resource-intensive cases. In order to allow counties to meet the forthcoming new standards, the Commission issued grant applications to allow counties to apply for additional funding for their indigent defense services. Pursuant to I.C. § 19-862A, counties are eligible to receive up to $25,000 or 15% of the budget, whichever is greater.

The Commission is pleased to announce that there was a robust response to its call for grant applications. Of Idaho’s 44 counties, 43 submitted grant applications. In their applications, the counties supplied extensive information about their current indigent defense expenses and their proposed plans for how they would use the additional funding. The Commission is excited to begin the process of thoroughly reviewing the applications and approving those that meet their standards. Discussing the substantial number and quality of the grant applications, Executive Director Kimberly Simmons said, “I am pleasantly surprised and excited by the response from the counties in our first round of grant applications. The diligence and effort put into the applications by our counties shows that Idaho is dedicated to improving indigent defense services so as to provide constitutional representation for our indigent residents.” The Commission is proud to continue the work of improving Idaho’s indigent defense system in a collaborative manner with Idaho’s counties who take on the important responsibility of providing constitutionally-sound representation for indigent defendants.

The Commission invites any interested party to attend its next public meeting on August 30, 2016 at 1 p.m. at the Commission’s office.

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