West Virginia

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All data is current as of 2013, unless otherwise noted.
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Read about a particular aspect of the right to counsel in West Virginia by clicking on the heading for that issue. Or [Expand All] to see and print from one location all of the facts about the right to counsel in West Virginia, then [Collapse All] whenever you need to do so.

How the right to counsel is administered and structured
State commission: yes – limited authority
Branch of government: executive

West Virginia Public Defender Services (WVPDS) is an executive branch agency housed in the Department of Administration. The executive director of WVPDS is an at-will, direct gubernatorial appointee.

The WVPDS executive director chairs an 11-member commission that sets standards related to attorney qualifications, performance, and training. The governor appoints the other 10 members of the commission: one former or retired circuit judge; three experienced criminal defense lawyers (one from each of the state’s Congressional districts); one sitting chief public defender; one non-lawyer; one mental health or developmental disability advocate; and one juvenile justice advocate.

WVPDS determines how right to counsel services are delivered in all of the state’s 55 counties, oversees contracts with public defender corporations, pays the vouchers of private attorneys, and within statutory limits sets the compensation of attorneys and experts and investigators. It also oversees a trial-level resource center and an appellate defender office.

In 29 counties, WVPDS has established public defender corporations (much like public defender offices elsewhere in the country). These are non-profit organizations that contract with WVPDS to provide right to counsel services. Each corporation has a board of directors that is appointed jointly by the governor, the county commission, and the local bar association. WVPDS hires and the chief of each public defender corporation. Another 15 counties are slated to open public defender corporations under a strategic plan currently being implemented.

In the other 36 counties where WVPDS has not established a public defender corporation, the local judges choose and appoint private attorneys to represent the indigent.

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How the right to counsel is funded
Percentage of state funding: 100%
Percentage of local funding: 0%
Percentage of alternative funding: 0%

The state provides all funding of right to counsel services, administered through the West Virginia Public Defender Services (WVPDS).

The methods used to provide public counsel
The West Virginia Public Defender Services (WVPDS) has total authority to decide how services are delivered in the state’s 55 counties.

Primary services in 29 counties are currently provided by non-profit public defender corporations (that operate like public defender offices elsewhere in the county) under contracts with WVPDS.

Primary services in the 36 counties with no public defender corporation services and conflict services in all counties are provided by private attorneys. The local judiciary of each county administers the assigned counsel panels, including determining who is on the panels and approving vouchers to be paid by WVPDS. The private attorney are paid $65 per hour in court and $45 per hour out of court, as established by statute.

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Legal authority
West Virginia Code, §§ 29-21-1 et seq.

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