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An Inside Look at the Public Defender Caseload Study Here in Indiana

Earlier this week the New York Times published an article about crushing caseloads experienced by overworked public defenders. The article mentioned that caseload studies have been done in several states, including Indiana.

I had the pleasure of being part of the study for appellate caseloads, undertaken by the Indiana Public Defender Commission. At our first meeting for the study, a representative for the Commission explained that our current caseload standards promulgated by the Commission had not been updated in years.

At that first meeting, a group of us who are experienced in appellate law worked together to create the parameters for a statewide survey that would go out to Indiana’s appellate lawyers.

Two separate surveys were conducted. The first survey asked appellate attorneys to estimate how much time they spent on specific tasks a lawyer would undertake in a typical appeal within a certain category. General criminal appeals were broken up by size of record (number of pages of transcript and appendix combined). Special categories were created for CHINS appeals, TPR appeals, and LWOP appeals.

After the initial survey data was collected, a second survey went out to the same attorneys. The second survey included data from the first survey, such as the mean response for each task.

After the second survey was completed, appellate attorneys from around the state convened in Indianapolis last week to review the survey data and decide whether the responses accurately reflected the amount of time each task takes in a typical appeal.

All of this data will then be used to create new caseload standards for appellate attorneys who work in Commission counties. The same study was undertaken for trial-level cases here in Indiana, including LWOP, CHINS/TPR, general criminal, etc.

I am interested to see how my appellate caseload compares to the new standards.

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