Justine Olderman Presented Testimony to City Council on Evaluating the Effectiveness of Indigent Defense

But in truth, traditional metrics fail to adequately measure effective representation…We cannot talk about caseloads, qualifications, training, or supervision without taking into account the radical change in our responsibility to our clients. We must first recognize that no matter how well organized, staffed, trained, supervised, and evaluated we are, we are not meeting minimum standards of indigent defense if we are unknowingly pleading people out to low level offenses only to have them deported, fired from their jobs, or evicted from public housing.    — Justine Olderman

On January 26, 2015 Bronx Defenders Managing Director of the Criminal Defense Practice Justine Olderman presented written and oral testimony before the New York City Council Committees on Courts and Legal Services and Public Safety Oversight Hearing on “Examining How the City Evaluates the Effectiveness of the Provision of Indigent Defense,” quoted above.

Justine’s testimony presents a critique of current evaluation metrics — such as experience of lawyers, training, supervision, and caseloads — used to assess the effectiveness of indigent defense. These metrics fall short, Justine argues, because they ignore the importance of addressing the root causes of criminal justice involvement and treat enmeshed penalties as an afterthought. Calling attention to the need for new metrics to capture the changing nature of the criminal justice system, where 72 percent of cases are low level misdemeanors and 80 percent are resolved through guilty plea, Justine proposes three new metrics for evaluating indigent defense providers. These new metrics would assess providers’ ability to address the causes and consequences of criminal justice involvement, evaluate providers based on their willingness to collect feedback from clients and respond to the results, and assess providers’ ability to innovate and adapt to meet the changing needs of their client population.

To read the full testimony click here.