District of Columbia

Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on TumblrPin on PinterestPrint this page

At a Glance (as of 2013)

Percentage of state funding: 0%
Percentage of local funding: 0%
Percentage of alternative funding: 100% federal funding
State commission: yes – limited authority
Branch of government: judicial


Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services

Funding for the delivery of right to counsel services in the District of Columbia is provided for entirely by Congressional appropriation (as opposed to being funded by the D.C. Council). As such, the system looks and operates like many federal defender systems that provide Sixth Amendment representation in federal criminal courts across the country.

The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia (PDS) is the primary service provider in the most serious adult criminal matters and juvenile delinquency cases. PDS is a non-profit corporation established by federal statute and directed by an independent 11-member board. PDS is considered a commission with limited authority because it does not oversee conflict services. PDS has established rigid limits on the number of cases its attorneys can handle each year. For all overflow cases and cases of conflict that PDS cannot handle, as well as for all lesser felonies and misdemeanors cases, direct services are provided by the local criminal defense bar. The panel of private attorneys — called the “CJA Panel,” after the Criminal Justice Act of 1964 — are qualified for court appointed cases and then paid an hourly rate by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts for any cases assigned to them by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. As such, all private attorneys on the CJA Panel is directly responsible to the judiciary, rather than operating under the auspices of an independent board.

Statutory Authority

PDS enabling legislation: Pub. L. No. 91-358, Title III, § 301 (1970) and D.C. Code § 2-1601, et seq.CJA panel: D.C. Code §§ 11-2601 to 2608.

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