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: no statewide component

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not have any state-level right to counsel system. Its county-based systems are entirely decentralized with no oversight by state government.


How the right to counsel is funded

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

The methods used to provide public counsel

Pennsylvania’s only statewide statutory requirement is that each county must operate a county public defender office. In most counties, the local public defender office is a mixture of full-time and part-time attorneys. In the smallest counties, however, the defender office is actually one or two attorneys who represent publicly appointed clients purely on a part-time basis. In the city and county of Philadelphia, the Defender Association of Philadelphia is not a county agency but is instead a non-profit law firm that operates as the primary right to counsel service provider under contract with the city.

In all counties, conflict services are handled by private attorneys who accept appointments on an hourly basis or under annual contract, depending on the county.


Legal authority

Pennsylvania Constitution, art. I, § 9

Pennsylvania Statutes Annotated, tit. 16, §§ 9960.1 through 9960.13 (public defender act)

Pennsylvania Code, 234 Pa. Code rules 120 through 124 (rules of criminal procedure)

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