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At a Glance (as of 2013)

Percentage of state funding: 11%
Percentage of local funding: 89%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%
State commission: yes – limited authority
Branch of government: executive


Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services

In 1998, the State of Idaho created the Office of the State Appellate Public Defender (SAPD) to relieve counties of paying for appellate indigent defense services in felony cases (including post-conviction and state habeas cases). SAPD is an executive branch government agency and the head of SAPD is a direct gubernatorial appointee.

Trial-level indigent defense services are in a transitional period. Some of the state’s more populous counties, including Ada County (Boise) and Kootenai County (Coeur D’Alene), maintain traditional public defender offices with full time staff attorneys (and, another public defender office in Canyon County is set to open in late 2014), but most of Idaho’s 44 counties provide services through contract defenders or assigned counsel systems. Bannock, Bonner, Cassia/Minidoka, and Twin Falls are the only less populous counties employing the public defender model.

The majority of counties have historically employed flat fee contracts, however in April 2014, a law was passed banning the use of flat fee contracts and creating a seven-person public defense commission within the Department of Self-Governing Agencies – a constitutional provision in Idaho which means that though the commission is still located in the Executive Branch, the commission would not have to answer directly to the Governor. Despite this change, the commission considered to have limited authority, because it does not oversee appellate services.

id_structureDiverse authorities appoint the members of the Idaho Public Defense Commission such that no one branch of government has undue influence over the actions of the commission. The commission consists of: a member of the state senate; a member of the house of representatives; an appointee of the chief justice; four gubernatorial appointees. Three of the members appointed by the governor must be chosen from names submitted by the Idaho Association of Counties, the State Appellate Defender and the Idaho Juvenile Justice Commission, and must be confirmed by the senate; the fourth gubernatorial appointee must be an experienced criminal defense attorney. None of the appointees may be a prosecuting attorney or a current employee of a law enforcement agency.

The commission has the power to hire an executive director and all additional staff the commission deems necessary to complete the work of the commission. Compensation levels for the director and staff are the sole discretion of the commission. Under HB 454, the commission, director and staff are to immediately address the lack of public defense training in the state, specifically authorizing them to promulgate rules on training and continuing legal education to promote “competency and consistency” for the following case-types: criminal, juvenile, abuse and neglect, post-conviction, civil commitment, capital and civil contempt. This section is generally regarded as the authority for the commission to set specific performance standards that will inform attorneys about the parameters of ethical performance for each of the enumerated case-types, and then to establish a central training unit to train attorneys against said standards.

Statutory Authority

I.C. § 19-849

I.C. § 19-850

I.C. § 19-868

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