Falling Behind in NC: Indigent Defense
The NC General Assembly created the Office of Indigent Defense Services in 2000 to oversee the provision of legal representation to indigent defendants and others entitled to counsel under North Carolina law. In addition to providing representation, OIDS sets professional standards for advocates, researches best practices for delivering legal services to indigent persons at the district level, and manages the State’s costs for providing indigent defense services.
The case count handled by attorneys within OIDS is projected to have increased by 22% between FY07-08 and FY11-12, assuming a 4.9% increase in personal assigned counsel cases over FY10-11 and no increase in other case counts. Under the House budget proposal, funding for OIDS would reflect only a $9.2 million, or 3 percent, increase over FY08 appropriations. Despite the expectation of increased demand for indigent defense services, the House budget would cut 5 percent from OIDS’ current year budget.
OIDS is committed to the recruitment and professional development of highly skilled attorneys to perform this important role in the justice system, but insufficient funding for indigent defense services during a time of increasing demand places considerable strain on attorneys already working many hours on multiple cases for below-market compensation, indirectly undermining OIDS’ ability to recruit and develop legal talent to fulfill this need in the future.