West Virginia

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: yes – limited authority
Branch of government: executive

West Virginia Public Defender Services (WVPDS) is an executive branch agency housed in the Department of Administration. The executive director of WVPDS is an at-will, direct gubernatorial appointee.

The WVPDS executive director chairs a 9-member commission that sets standards related to attorney qualifications, performance, and training. The governor appoints the other 8 members of the commission: one former or retired circuit judge; three experienced criminal defense lawyers (one from each of the state’s Congressional districts); one sitting chief public defender; one non-lawyer; one mental health or developmental disability advocate; and one juvenile justice advocate.

WVPDS determines how right to counsel services are delivered in all of the state’s 55 counties, oversees contracts with public defender corporations, pays the vouchers of private attorneys, and within statutory limits sets the compensation of attorneys and experts and investigators. It also oversees a trial-level resource center and an appellate defender office.



How the right to counsel is funded

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

The state provides all funding of right to counsel services, administered through the West Virginia Public Defender Services (WVPDS).

The methods used to provide public counsel

The West Virginia Public Defender Services (WVPDS) has total authority to decide how services are delivered in the state’s 55 counties.

In 31 counties, WVPDS has established public defender corporations that operate like public defender offices elsewhere in the country. These are non-profit organizations that contract with WVPDS to provide right to counsel services. Each corporation has a board of directors that is appointed jointly by the governor, the county commission, and the local bar association. WVPDS hires and the chief of each public defender corporation. Additional counties are slated to open public defender corporations under a strategic plan currently being implemented.

Primary services in the 24 counties where WVPDS has not established a public defender corporation, and conflict services in all counties, are provided by private attorneys. The local judges choose and appoint the private attorneys to represent the indigent and approve vouchers to be paid by WVPDS. The private attorneys are paid $65 per hour in court and $45 per hour out of court, as established by statute.


Legal authority

West Virginia Constitution, art. 3, § 14

West Virginia Code, §§ 29-21-1 through 29-21-21

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