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

Alaska has two parallel systems providing right to counsel services across the state. Both are executive branch agencies.

The primary statewide system is the Public Defender Agency (PDA). The PDA’s chief public defender is appointed to a four-year term by the governor from two nominations of the Judicial Counsel and subject to confirmation by a majority of members of the legislature, and can only be removed for good cause.

In cases of conflict and for civil matters, the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) provides statewide services. Both the PDA and the OPA are housed in the Department of Administration. Unlike the PDA, the OPA director is appointed by the Commissioner of the Administration with no set term of office. However, the directors of both PDA and OPA are answerable to the Commissioner of the Administration.


How the right to counsel is funded

Percentage of state funding: 100%
Percentage of local funding: 0%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%

The methods used to provide public counsel

Primary services are provided by the Public Defender Agency (PDA), which has branch offices located in various locations throughout the state. PDA uses a mixture of full-time staff attorneys and contracts with private attorneys.

In cases of conflict, the Office of Public Advocacy (OPA) provides services through a structure similar to that of the primary system, but with a greater emphasis on contracting with private counsel for direct representation. The OPA also provides representation in abuse and neglect cases, public guardianship for incapacitated adults, and for parents in child in need of aid cases.


Legal authority

Alaska Constitution, art. 1, § 11

Alaska Statutes, §§ 18.85.010 through 18.85.170 (public defender agency), and §§ 44.21.400 through 44.21.470 (office of public advocacy)

Alaska Rules of Criminal Procedure, rule 39 (appointing counsel), and rule 39.1 (determining eligibility for public counsel)

Alaska Rules of Appellate Procedure, rule 209(b) (public counsel on appeal)

Alaska Rules of Court Administration, rule 12 (procedure for providing public counsel)

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