West Virginia

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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: executive

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Structure & Funding of Indigent Defense Services

West Virginia Public Defender Services (WVPDS) is a state-funded executive branch agency housed in the Department of Administration. Though WVPDS has an 11-member commission authorized to set standards related to attorney qualification, performance and training, the executive director of WVPDS is an at-will, direct gubernatorial appointee. The Director of WVPDS serves as the commission chairperson with the Governor appointing the remaining members as follows: 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 provides no direct trial-level services, but it does oversee an appellate defender office and a trial-level resource center. WVPDS also has an administration department that oversees contracts with non-profit public defender corporations and pays assigned council vouchers with 100% state funds. The commission sets compensation levels for public defenders, experts, and investigators, though statutory language sets assigned counsel compensation at $65 (in court) and $45 (out of court).

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WVPDS also has total authority to decide how services are delivered in the state’s 55 counties. Twenty-nine counties currently provide primary trial-level services through non-profit public defender corporations. Though each corporation has a Board of Directors – appointed jointly by the Governor, the county commission, and the local bar association – WVPDS has the authority to hire and fire (for just cause) the chief of each public defender corporation. Another 15 counties are slated to open public defender offices under a strategic plan currently being implemented.

Conflict services in all counties and primary services in those counties with no public defender corporation are provided by private attorneys paid the statutory rate. Though WVPDS pays the vouchers, 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.

Statutory Authority

WVC §29-21-1 through §29-21-20

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