The Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Indiana mandate that indigent persons, those who cannot afford private representation, charged with criminal offenses shall be provided effective representation of trial and appellate counsel at public expense. These services prior to 1993 had been provided through court services and individual attorneys were hired by the judges in each court to represent the indigent citizens who had cases filed in their courts.
In the early 90s, organized concerns were raised over the employee and employer relationship between attorneys and the judges. Recognizing the adversarial relationship that exists between the parties in a lawsuit and the court, the legitimate question was posed:
Did the fact that the attorney relied upon the judge for employment have any effect on the representation of the client? Would the attorney, for fear of losing his/her job, be reluctant to raise issues on behalf of the client if those issues might be looked on in disfavor by the judge?
While all believed our system was above this concern, the appearance of impropriety was obviously there as well as the effect on the client and their confidence in the work the PD attorney performed on their behalf. It became apparent the best course of action was to form an independent agency not under control of the judiciary.
The Marion County Public Defender Agency was formed by statute in 1993 with the first full year of operation being 1994. We are a County Agency.
The Agency has responsibilities for the representation of indigent clients in all areas of Marion County were a defendant is entitled to an attorney by law. We staff of all major felony courts, all D felony courts, all misdemeanor courts, Title IV D court, all juvenile courts, termination of parental rights/children in need of services cases, and all criminal appeals. Our office in 2003 handled over 33,000 cases in the criminal judicial system.
The areas entitled to representation at public expense are continually being expanded by the appellate courts. Our mission is to help people and provide the check for the check and balance form of government upon which our criminal justice system was designed.