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PACDL Statement on Governor Shapiro’s Effort to Provide Indigent Defense Funding

The Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (PACDL) released the following statement from Patrick A. Casey, PACDL President in response to Governor Shapiro’s announcement of the allocation of state funding for indigent defense in the 2023-2024 budget. 

“PACDL applauds Governor Joshua Shapiro’s allocation of resources in the 2023-2024 state budget as an important initial effort to fund Pennsylvania’s indigent defense system and make it a more balanced justice system. This initial investment is a first of its kind effort to turnaround Pennsylvania’s history of failing to provide any state-based funding for indigent defense. This is a critical first step toward meaningful implementation of equal justice under law in our Commonwealth for which our Governor should be congratulated.
PACDL urges the allocation to include an effort to undertake a state study to gain insight into the financial perspective of the indigent defense system and the perspectives of the benefits and challenges associated with public defense, appointed counsel, and contract models of defense as they relate to the American Bar Association standards for a public indigent defense system. This study is essential to determine how much state funding Pennsylvania requires to adequately fund every county and then earmark that full amount in the 2024-25 budget.
Goals of this study would include assessing implementation of the standards across diverse county indigent defense systems and understanding what additional supports are necessary to bolster the implementation of indigent defense standards and improve the quality of indigent defense legal representation. To accomplish these critical goals, identification of the cost of the system is critical before setting forth standards, which local public defender offices will be challenged to meet without adequate funding.”

PACDL has long worked for the provision of effective assistance of counsel in its fullest sense – for lawyers who are not only well-trained, but well-resourced and with reasonable caseloads. PACDL has called for proper staffing and compensation and for necessary resources such as investigative and expert services. Toward that end, PACDL provides comprehensive and high quality continuing legal education programs which are essential to representing accused individuals.23) –

PACDL Statement on Governor Shapiro’s Call to Repeal the Death Penalty

Harrisburg, PA (February 16, 2023) – The Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (PACDL) today released the following statement from Patrick A. Casey, PACDL President in response to Governor Shapiro’s announcement that he will refuse to sign execution warrants and seeks the repeal of the death penalty.

“PACDL has long opposed the penalty of death as a criminal sanction. Every significant study of Pennsylvania’s capital punishment system has concluded that it is severely flawed, unreliable, arbitrarily administered, and fails to halt the execution of innocent persons. Pennsylvania’s death penalty impedes equal justice under law, both actual and apparent, in criminal proceedings.
Crime and delinquency are complex social phenomena requiring the attention and efforts of all facets of state and local governments. PACDL supports efforts to preserve human life by way of a moratorium on executions.
As Justice Blackmun, a Justice with a 20-year history of favoring the death penalty, wrote in 1994, in his dissent in Callins v. Collins,
‘…From this day forward, I shall no longer tinker with the machinery of death….Perhaps one day this court will develop procedural rules or verbal formulas that actually will provide consistency, fairness, and reliability in a capital sentencing scheme. I am not optimistic that such a day will come.  I am more optimistic, though, that the court eventually will conclude that the effort to eliminate arbitrariness while preserving fairness ‘in the infliction of {death}’ is so plainly doomed to failure that it, and the death penalty, must be abandoned altogether…I may not live to see that day, but I have faith that eventually it will arrive. The path the Court has chosen lessens us all.’
The wisdom of Justice Blackmun in Callins could not be clearer.  The penalty of death should be abolished. PACDL joins with Governor Shapiro in his call to the General Assembly to repeal the death penalty with all deliberate speed.”