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.
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.
State public defender program.