Alabama

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At a Glance (as of 2013)

Percentage of state funding: 54%
Percentage of local funding: 0%
Percentage of alternative funding: 46% – civil filing fees
State commission: none
Branch of government: executive

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Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services

The Office of Indigent Defense Services (OIDS) is an executive branch agency housed in the Department of Finance, responsible for overseeing all indigent defense services, both primary and conflict. The Finance Director appoints the OIDS Director to a three-year term (termination for just cause only) from three names nominated by the Alabama State Bar, Board of Commissioners.

OIDS is statutorily obligated to set standards related to: fiscal responsibility and accountability; minimum attorney qualification, training and other standards by case type; caseload management; attorney performance standards; the independent, efficient and competent representation of conflict defendants; indigency and partial-indigency; and recoupment; among others.

Alabama system structure

However, local indigent advisory boards within each judicial circuit make decisions regarding the structure of local right to counsel services. Each circuit’s five-person advisory board is composed of: the presiding circuit court judge; the president of the local circuit bar association; and three lawyers selected by the circuit bar association commission (in multi-county circuits these appointments are made by the president of local county bar associations). Advisory boards must reflect the racial and gender diversity of the circuit.

But, because OIDS is ultimately responsible for all contracting, payment of assigned counsel, and oversight of staff public defenders, the director of OIDS has an important say over the decisions of the local advisory boards. First, if a local advisory board fails to recommend a delivery service model at all, then the OIDS director determines how to provide services in that county. If the OIDS director disagrees with the recommendation of the local advisory board, the director can appeal the recommendation to a state Indigent Defense Review Panel.

The Indigent Defense Review Panel is a five-member body composed of appointees made by: the president of the Alabama State Bar (two appointees); the state’s Association of Circuit Court Judges (one appointee); the Association of District Court Judges (one); and the president of the Alabama Lawyers Association (the state’s African-American Bar). Appeals to the review board by OIDS may be either standards-based or based on fiscal concerns. The decision of the review board is final.

Counties do not contribute to the funding of indigent defense services. Instead, money from a filing fee in civil court matters is collected in a central fund dedicated to indigent defense services. If OIDS exceeds the amount of dollars available in that fund, the state is statutorily responsible for funding the difference out of the state general fund.

Statutory Authority

ALA CODE § 12-19-252 (funding); ALA CODE § 15-12-1 through 15-12-46 (structure)

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