2011 Legislative Preview: HB 1004

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See here for explanation of what we’re doing.

Bill Name: AN ACT TO PROHIBIT THE PAYMENT OF PRIVATELY RETAINED ATTORNEYS FOR INDIGENT PERSONS EXCEPT IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES

Sponsor: John Edwards (D-38), 501-378-5500, jcedwardslaw@aol.com

Purpose: To clarify A.C.A. 16-87-212 that “appointed counsel” means “counsel appointed by the court,” and to prohibit payment from public funds for counsel privately retained by or for an indigent defendant except in certain narrow circumstances.

Pros for Average Arkansans: Much like HB 1003, not much. From an applicability standpoint, I doubt the “average” Arkansan is likely to commit a crime and, if he doesn’t have the money to pay for an attorney, attempt to finagle private counsel paid by the state. This bill is in response, at least in part, to the situation with the Memphis attorney defending the alleged shooter at the National Guard office last year. From a taxpayer standpoint, I guess there is a little more benefit, though I question how many cases this law would have changed the representation on in 2010. My guess is that it’s very few.

Cons for Average Arkansans: Even less than the pro list, really. The public defenders in Arkansas are, by and large, very good lawyers. Not requiring Arkansans to pay for a private attorney who may not even be from Arkansas can hardly be a bad thing.

Recommendations: I’d like to see them lose the Emergency Clause, just because it makes the law seem like a quick effort to thwart a pending court case and/or sway the court of public opinion on the matter. Just approve the law and let it take effect on a normal timeline.

Official BHR Position: Support, with recommendations.