Txcourts.gov has another interesting graphic up, this time on court-appointed criminal cases.
Obviously I work in the criminal justice system, so you’d think these numbers wouldn’t shock me, but seeing on “paper” seems to make them real. 71% of all felony criminal defendants are represented by court-appointed counsel. I knew it would be the majority, but I wouldn’t have guessed it would be the vast majority. 42% of misdemeanor defendants have court-appointed lawyers.
The difference in the percentages is surely directly proportional to the higher cost of retaining a lawyer of your choosing for a felony case. I’m sure it also has something to do with some people (wrongly) assuming that a misdemeanor case isn’t important enough to bother spending the money on a retained lawyer.
These numbers are eye-opening and underline the need to rethink the way we handle indigent defense (from the way cases are assigned to the way court-appointed lawyers are compensated and the number of cases lawyers are allowed to handle).