North Carolina

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At a Glance (as of 2013)

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


Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services

The North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS) is a judicial branch agency that oversees the provision of right to counsel services throughout the state. An independent 13-member commission with the authority to promulgate standards related to training, attorney qualification and performance, among others, governs IDS. The commission is appointed by diverse authorities: Chief Justice (1 appointee, current or retired judge); Governor (1 – non-attorney); President Pro Tempore of the Senate (1 attorney); Speaker of the House of Representatives (1 attorney); North Carolina Public Defenders Association (1 attorney); North Carolina State Bar (1 attorney); North Carolina Bar Association (1 attorney); North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers (1 attorney); North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers (1 attorney); North Carolina Association of Women Lawyers (1 attorney); and the Commission itself (3, one non-attorney, one judge, and one Native American).

IDS also houses centralized representation units: appellate defender, office of parent representation, capital defender, and the juvenile defender. Trial-level representation is provided by staff public defenders, assigned counsel, and contract defenders throughout the state. The authority to determine the delivery model used in each judicial district is a legislative decision with input from local actors (county bars, judiciary, etc.). To date, only 16 judicial districts have established public defender offices. The presiding judge of the Superior Court in the district has the authority to hire the chief public defender.

nc_structureBecause IDS does not retain authority to decide service model, the commission is classified as having limited authority. In 2011, the state legislature directed IDS to begin moving away from assigned counsel representation to contract representation, and currently 18 counties provide services through contracts (as of the 2014 Summer).

Statutory Authority

NC Gen Stat. § 7A-498.1 through 7A-499

Source of data: original research conducted by Sixth Amendment Center staff, augmented by the North Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense Services, Report to the General Assembly, March 2014.