What is a Private Defenders Office?
Broadly speaking, a private defender is an attorney who represents a person accused of a crime but who cannot afford to pay for an attorney. A private defenders office is a group that coordinates the appointment of these attorneys.
Article 26.047 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure defines a private defender office/managed assigned counsel program as a program operated with public funds by a governmental entity, non-profit corporation, or bar association under a written agreement with a governmental entity for the purpose of appointing counsel under Article 26.04 of the Code of Criminal Procedure or Section 51.10 of the Family Code. The LPDO operates as a nonprofit corporation. Lubbock County contracts with the LPDO to administer and appoint counsel in all non-capital criminal cases.
The LPDO has a staff of nine personnel.
History of LPDO
LPDO’s roots go back to 2008 when it became the first private defenders office in the state. At that time, the Task Force on Indigent Defense (now the Texas Indigent Defense Commission) awarded Lubbock County a four-year, state-funded grant for defense work. As part of that grant, the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association established a non-profit corporation entitled the “Lubbock Special Needs Defenders’ Office.” The newly created office responded to the challenges involved with representing the mentally ill offender.
In 2011, the office was recognized by the Texas Association of Counties, which gave Lubbock County a “Best Practice” award for Innovation by teaming mental health caseworkers with specially trained attorneys to produce better outcomes for mental health clients and the county. With additional funding awarded the following year, Lubbock County expanded the office’s services to all non-capital criminal cases, and the Lubbock Private Defenders Office was born. Following Lubbock’s lead, Collin County implemented a Mental Health Managed Counsel Program, and Travis County established the Capital Area Private Defender Service.