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Reform Representation of Indigent Defendants

SECTION 27.   (A) The title of chapter 211D of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out the word "Committee" and inserting in place thereof the word "Department".

(B) Said chapter 211D is hereby amended by striking out section 1 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
Section 1. There shall be an independent agency in the executive department to be known as the department of public counsel services, in this chapter called the department or the committee. The department shall coordinate the delivery of criminal and certain noncriminal legal services by all salaried public counsel and other assigned counsel programs. The governor shall appoint, for a term coterminous with the governor's, a chief counsel to be the head of the department.

(C) Section 2 of said chapter 211D, as appearing in the 2008 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out, in lines 7 and 8, the words "supreme judicial court" and inserting in place thereof the following words:- secretary of administration and finance.

(D) Section 2 1/2 of said chapter 211D, as so appearing, is hereby amended by adding the following subsection:-
(j) In lieu of verification of indigency by the probation department for some or all persons under this section, the chief counsel may designate other agents for this purpose, and may agree with the department of transitional assistance that its employees or agents will verify indigency according to this section and additional procedures that the chief counsel may establish.

(E) Paragraph (b) of section 6 of said chapter 211D, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out clauses (i), (ii) and (iii) and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:-
Counsel from the private counsel division shall be assigned only if the public counsel division is unable to provide representation because of a conflict of interest or other extraordinary reason, as determined by the chief counsel.

(F) Said chapter 211D is hereby amended by striking out section 13 and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
Section 13. The chief counsel shall have overall supervision of the workings of the department. The chief counsel shall appoint or prescribe the procedures for the appointment of all legal and nonlegal staff of the department and for the procurement of office space as may be required. The chief counsel shall authorize the certification of all payments under section 27G of chapter 261 and section 20 of chapter 29. All legal and nonlegal staff of the public counsel division shall be full time and shall devote their entire time during ordinary business hours to their duties and shall neither directly or indirectly engage in the private practice of law. The chief counsel and any deputy chief counsels shall likewise devote full time to their duties. The chief counsel, deputy chief counsels and all legal and non-legal staff of the department, including staff attorneys hired under paragraphs (a) and (b) of section 6 but not including persons described in the fourth sentence of said subparagraph (b) of said section 6, shall be considered public employees for purposes of chapter 258. The chief counsel shall be paid a salary comparable to the salary paid to a district attorney. All other legal staff of the public defender division shall be paid at salaries comparable to the salary paid to an attorney employed in a district attorney's office. The counsel and other employees appointed by the committee shall not be subject to chapter 31.
 
 

Summary:
This section reforms representation of indigent defendants in court by establishing in the executive branch an independent Department of Public Counsel Services, headed by a Chief Counsel to be appointed by the Governor coterminously. The section allows private counsel to be assigned only if the public counsel division is unable to provide representation because of a conflict of interest or other extraordinary reason, as determined by the Chief Counsel.