District of Columbia

The U.S. federal government funds and administers indigent defense services in the District of Columbia (as opposed to the D.C. Council). A commission provides limited oversight of indigent defense within the District.

The Congressionally funded nonprofit Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) provides direct services to indigent defendants in the most serious adult criminal matters and juvenile delinquency cases in the D.C. courts. For less serious criminal matters, and where PDS has a conflict, judges appoint private attorneys paid on an hourly basis. The U.S. Congress funds the private attorney panel through the Criminal Justice Act (CJA). Courts may also appoint qualified law students participating in clinical programs or pro bono attorneys.

A nonprofit board, composed of 11 members appointed by diverse authorities, oversees PDS. The board appoints the PDS director. The Joint Committee on Judicial Administration, the policy-making body for the D.C. courts composed of five D.C. court judges, oversees the CJA panel. There is no governmental entity with oversight of court-appointed law students and pro bono attorneys.

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Questions Open/Close

Who appoints the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) board members?

Who serves on the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration?