The Source for Crime and Justice Data

Census of Public Defender Offices: State Programs, 2007 (ICPSR 29501)

Alternate Title:  CPDO: State, 2007

Principal Investigator(s):


The Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) 2007 Census of Public Defender Offices (CPDO) collected data from public defender offices located across 49 states and the District of Columbia. Public defender offices are one of three methods through which states and localities ensure that indigent defendants are granted the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to counsel. (In addition to defender offices, indigent defense services may also be provided by court-assigned private counsel or by a contract system in which private attorneys contractually agree to take on a specified number of indigent defendants or indigent defense cases.) Public defender offices have a salaried staff of full- or part-time attorneys who represent indigent defendants and are employed as direct government employees or through a public, nonprofit organization. Public defenders play an important role in the United States criminal justice system. Data from prior BJS surveys on indigent defense representation indicate that most criminal defendants rely on some form of publicly provided defense counsel, primarily public defenders. Although the United States Supreme Court has mandated that the states provide counsel for indigent persons accused of crime, documentation on the nature and provision of these services has not been readily available. States have devised various systems, rules of organization, and funding mechanisms for indigent defense programs. While the operation and funding of public defender offices varies across states, public defender offices can be generally classified as being part of either a state program or a county-based system. The 22 state public defender programs functioned entirely under the direction of a central administrative office that funded and administered all the public defender offices in the state. For the 28 states with county-based offices, indigent defense services were administered at the county or local jurisdictional level and funded principally by the county or through a combination of county and state funds. The CPDO collected data from both state- and county-based offices. All public defender offices that were principally funded by state or local governments and provided general criminal defense services, conflict services, or capital case representation were within the scope of the study. Federal public defender offices and offices that provided primarily contract or assigned counsel services with private attorneys were excluded from the data collection. In addition, public defender offices that were principally funded by a tribal government, or provided primarily appellate or juvenile services were outside the scope of the project and were also excluded. The CPDO gathered information on public defender office staffing, expenditures, attorney training, standards and guidelines, and caseloads, including the number and type of cases received by the offices. The data collected by the CPDO can be compared to and analyzed against many of the existing national standards for the provision of indigent defense services.

Access Notes

  • These data are available to the general public.


Census of Public Defender Offices: State Programs, 2007 - Download All Files (7.8 MB)
SAS    SPSS    Stata    ASCII    Excel/TSV
ASCII + SAS Setup    SPSS Setup    Stata Setup   
Analyze Online:

Study Description


United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Census of Public Defender Offices: State Programs, 2007. ICPSR29501-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2011-05-13.

Persistent URL:

Export Citation:

  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote XML (EndNote X4.0.1 or higher)


This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Bureau of Justice Statistics

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:   defendants, expenditures, law enforcement agencies, legal representation, personnel, police departments, policies and procedures, public defenders

Smallest Geographic Unit:   state

Geographic Coverage:   United States

Time Period:  

  • 2007

Date of Collection:  

  • 2008--2009

Unit of Observation:   State public defender program.

Universe:   All state-based public defender offices that were principally funded by state or local governments and provided general criminal defense services, conflict services, or capital case representation in 2007.

Data Types:   survey data


Study Design:   The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), and a number of chief defenders and other experts in the field of indigent defense collaborated to develop the CPDO data collection instrument. The American Bar Association's Standing Committee for Legal Aid and Indigent Defense and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also had the opportunity to review and comment on the instrument. The data collection began in April 2008 and was completed in March 2009. Questionnaires were sent to 1,046 public defender offices identified in the United States. Approximately 97 percent of the offices provided responses to at least some of the critical items identified on the survey instrument. The variations in public defender systems (i.e., state- versus county-based) dictated the distribution of the CPDO questionnaire. In the District of Columbia and states with county-based public defender offices, each of 588 offices submitted one completed questionnaire via hardcopy or online submission. Of these offices, 530 (90 percent) served as the principal public defender office for the jurisdiction. The 22 states completed an online questionnaire and responded to questions pertaining to each of the local offices within the states. All 22 states provided responses to at least some of the critical items identified on the survey instrument. In select instances where respondents did not provide the information requested and the information was detailed in certain state statutes, BJS analysts used the statutes to supply missing data. The CPDO data collection produced two datasets: State Public Defender Programs, 2007, and County-based and Local Public Defender Offices, 2007. The data presented here focus on state-based public defender offices. Because county-based offices -- even those within the same state -- operate independently from one another, the data are presented and were analyzed at the office level. The CPDO collected data from public defender offices only. Because data pertaining to court-appointed counsel and contract attorneys were not collected, it is not known what percentage of all indigent defense services in any given jurisdiction (i.e., state or county/local jurisdiction) were provided by public defender offices. For this reason, caution should be exercised in making cross-jurisdictional comparisons based on the CPDO findings.

Mode of Data Collection:   mail questionnaire, web-based survey

Data Source:

survey data

Extent of Processing:  ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created variable labels and/or value labels.
  • Standardized missing values.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:  

Related Publications (?)



Metadata Exports

If you're looking for collection-level metadata rather than an individual metadata record, please visit our Metadata Records page.

Download Statistics