All data is current as of 2013, unless otherwise noted.
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How the right to counsel is administered and structured

State commission: none
Branch of government: executive

The Office of Indigent Defense Services (OIDS) is an executive branch agency housed in the Department of Finance, responsible for administering all indigent defense services, both primary and conflict. (OIDS does not, however, have oversight of municipal courts.)  The Finance Director appoints the OIDS Director to a three-year term (termination for just cause only) from three names nominated by the Alabama State Bar, Board of Commissioners.

OIDS is statutorily obligated to set standards related to, among others: fiscal responsibility and accountability; minimum attorney qualifications, training, and other standards by case type; caseload management; attorney performance standards; the independent, efficient, and competent representation of conflict defendants; indigency and partial-indigency determinations; and recoupment.

Alabama system structure

Each judicial circuit has a five-person advisory board that is responsible for making decisions about the delivery of services in that circuit. Each board is composed of: the presiding circuit court judge; the president of the local circuit bar association; and three lawyers selected by the circuit bar association commission (in multi-county circuits these appointments are made by the president of local county bar associations). Advisory boards must reflect the racial and gender diversity of the circuit.

A state Indigent Defense Review Panel hears appeals of any disagreement between a local advisory board and the director of OIDS about local service delivery. The panel is a five-member body composed of appointments made by: the president of the Alabama State Bar (two appointees); the state’s Association of Circuit Court Judges (one appointee); the Association of District Court Judges (one); and the president of the Alabama Lawyers Association (the state’s African-American Bar). Appeals to the review board by OIDS may be either standards-based or based on fiscal concerns. The decision of the review board is final.

How the right to counsel is funded

Percentage of state funding: 54%
Percentage of local funding: 0%
Percentage of alternative funding: 46% – civil filing fees

Counties do not contribute to the funding of indigent defense services. Instead, money from a filing fee in civil court matters is collected in a central fund dedicated to indigent defense services. If the Office of Indigent Defense Services (OIDS) funding needs exceed the amount of dollars available in that fund, the state is statutorily responsible for funding the difference out of the state general fund.

The methods used to provide public counsel

Local indigent advisory boards within each judicial circuit make decisions regarding the structure of local right to counsel services.

Because the state Office of Indigent Defense Services (OIDS) is ultimately responsible for all contracting, payment of assigned counsel, and oversight of staff public defenders, the director of OIDS has an important say over the decisions of the local advisory boards. First, if a local advisory board fails to recommend a delivery service model at all, then the OIDS director determines how to provide services in that county. If the OIDS director disagrees with the recommendation of the local advisory board, the director can appeal the recommendation to a state Indigent Defense Review Panel.


Legal authority

Alabama Constitution, art. 1, § 6

Alabama Code, § 12-14-9 and § 41-4-322(f) (municipal court indigent defense), and § 12-19-252 (funding), and §§ 15-12-1 through 15-12-46 (defense of indigents), and §§ 41-4-320 through 41-4-327 (Office of Indigent Defense Services)

Alabama Administrative Code, chapter 355-9-1 (Office of Indigent Defense Services)

Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff.