Criminal Justice

This county will allow defendants to use 'Gideon vouchers' to choose lawyers

A Texas county is trying a free-market approach in providing free lawyers to indigent defendants.

Starting this fall, defendants in Comal County, Texas, will get vouchers to pay qualified lawyers of their choice, the New York Times reports. The county calls the pilot program “client choice,” while the Times offers another name: Gideon vouchers.

James Bethke, executive director of the Texas Indigent Defense Commission, told the Times he got the idea from an article by law professors Stephen Schulhofer of New York University and David Friedman of Santa Clara University.

Bethke says the idea has never been tried. He added that only qualified lawyers will be allowed to participate int the program. “This is not going to be a pure free market,” he said. “We’re not going to allow lawyers to say, ‘I do bankruptcies—give me a call.’ ”

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