For over half a decade, the ACLU of Idaho has consistently been asking state lawmakers to address our broken and unconstitutional public defense system.
Lawmakers have known about the injustices that Idahoans have faced as they’ve entered a courtroom with a public defender at their side that is too over-worked and left with little financial resources to adequately defend their client’s case. Instead, Idaho legislators have chosen to create interim committees and commissions in lieu of legislative action – kicking the can down the road instead of addressing the systemic faults in our state’s public defense systems.
With the successful passage of House Bill 504, thanks to our multi-year lobbying efforts, Idaho’s public defense systems will see the first set of foundational reforms enacted in the history of the State. This legislation will outline standards to assist public defenders – including increased parity in pay with public defenders and prosecutors, providing for private meeting space to protect attorney/client confidentiality, and establishing caseload and workload standards for attorneys – along with granting additional dollars to counties to supplement their funding options for public defense. It will also grant the Public Defense Commission enforcement authority to hold counties accountable for providing a constitutional level of public defense. This legislation, with its partner appropriations bill, will also secure state funding for public defense in Idaho, the first time the legislature has provided sorely needed funding for on-the-ground trial level public defense.