Provisional Caseload Standards for the Indigent Defense of Adult Criminal and Juvenile Delinquency Cases in Utah

Report for the Utah Indigent Defense Commission

by Nicholas M. Pace, Dulani Woods, Roberto Guevara, Chau Pham, Shamena Anwar

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Research Question

  1. What should the IDC consider in determining maximum caseload standards for providers of indigent legal representation to defendants in trial-level courts and to minors in juvenile courts of the state of Utah?

In 2019, the Utah Indigent Defense Commission (IDC) asked the RAND Corporation for assistance in determining maximum caseload standards for providers of indigent legal representation to defendants in trial-level courts and to minors in juvenile courts of the state of Utah. Maximum caseload standards, typically expressed in terms of the number of cases of a particular type that can be reasonably handled by an attorney over the course of a specific time period, are a useful tool for determining both when caseloads are in danger of being excessive and the number of attorneys that may be needed to handle expected demand.

Similar to previous studies in other states that have also addressed the question of reasonable caseloads, this project conducted three data collection efforts to provide the empirical foundation for the Utah standards: an analysis of attorney time records maintained by two large public defender offices in Salt Lake County, a survey of indigent defenders practicing in Utah, and the convening of a panel of experts to reach consensus on recommended average time expenditures for counsel representing indigent defendants in various categories of criminal matters in Utah trial courts. The authors present for the IDC's consideration recommended caseload standards based on analysis of the collected data.

Key Findings

Adoption of the expert panel's recommendations would require a sharp increase in the supply of annual attorney hours available for indigent defense

  • The panel of experts, drawing on their own expertise and the data from the analysis of indigent defender time records and the survey of indigent defenders practicing in Utah, recommended average hours that were significantly greater than the results of the time analysis or attorney survey.
  • The minimum increase beyond reported average attorney hours was 46 percent, and, depending on the category, the expert recommendations actually doubled, tripled, and even quadrupled what were reported as average time expenditures.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Attorney Time Expenditure Analysis

  • Chapter Three

    The Attorney Survey

  • Chapter Four

    The Caseload Standards Setting Conference

  • Chapter Five

    Provisional Caseload Standards and Case Weights

  • Chapter Six

    Going Forward

  • Appendix

    Comments Submitted with the Attorney Survey

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the Utah Indigent Defense Commission (IDC) and conducted by the Justice Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.

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