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Public Defenders

Study: PDs Save $$, Do Better for Clients

Posted Jul 16, 2007 4:59 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Court-appointed criminal defense lawyers cost taxpayers more and achieve less for their clients than salaried public defenders working for the government.

That's the surprising result of a recent study by a Harvard University economist that looked at the results in federal cases randomly assigned to public and private lawyers, reports the New York Times.

Although, until now, it had been commonly assumed there wasn't much difference between the quality of representation provided indigent defendants by the two groups, it now appears that public defenders may be doing a better job for their clients because they are more experienced.

“The court-appointed lawyers tend to be quite young, tend to be from small practices and also they tend to be from lower-ranked law schools,” says Radha Iyengar, the economist who conducted the study. “They have a smaller client base and fewer interactions with prosecutors.”

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