New national public defense workload standards released.
ALBUQUERQUE — Today’s release of the National Public Defense Workload Study updates
case and workload limits from the 1970s for today’s legal world. The new study reinforces what
public defenders have long been saying: public defenders across the county — including those in New Mexico — have far more clients than they can ethically represent, resulting in serious
consequences for clients, communities and the people who work in the court system.
“Today’s report is a stark reminder that the criminal court system in New Mexico is unsustainable in its reliance on overburdened public defenders carrying many, many more times the number of cases than they can represent in an ethical and sustainable manner,” said NewMexico Chief Public Defender Bennett J. Baur.
This national report comes 21 months after New Mexico released its own workload study that
showed the state’s Law Offices of the Public Defender needed 602 additional attorneys, not to
mention staff to support them, to achieve the basic level of service to clients required by the U.S. Constitution and ethics mandates.
“We need more attorneys and staff to effectively serve our clients. But with such a gap between
what we have and what we need, we cannot just hire our way out of this problem. The way our
communities handle public safety absolutely has to change to address drug addiction and mental health issues outside of the crime and punishment framework,” Chief Baur said. “For us, this report is a warning that the criminal court system is not functioning the way the Constitution envisions, and as public defenders we have a duty to our clients and our communities to say that loudly and clearly.”
The report is a project of the RAND Corporation, the National Center for State Courts, the
American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Legal Aid and Indigent Defendants, and
Lawyer Stephen F. Hanlon. It can be found here. The New Mexico Workload Study and its
associated 5-Year Plan can be found at www.lopdnm.us/about-us/