Fifteen years ago, the ACLU of Pennsylvania and the national ACLU sued Allegheny County in Doyle v. Allegheny County Salary Board, alleging that the Office of the Public Defender ("OPD") failed to provide constitutionally adequate representation to indigent criminal defendants, juveniles charged with delinquency and people subject to involuntary mental health commitments, and that county officials were ignoring these serious deficiencies. After two years of contentious litigation, the lawsuit resulted in an agreement designed to improve the OPD, which called for increased funding, staffing, training and management, as well as written policies promoting best practices. While the county met the funding and staffing requirements, the OPD has never adopted the necessary standards, maintained high-level training or implemented the practices that are an indispensible part of a constitutionally adequate indigent defense system.
In a report issued on October 17, 2011, entitled A Job Left Undone: Allegheny County’s Fork in the Road (320k PDF), the ACLU-PA identifies ongoing problems in the office and requests that county officials take immediate steps to correct those problems. The report also exposes a secret study, done by and for Allegheny County in late 2008 or early 2009, that documents severe dysfunction in the OPD. The ACLU obtained the study, known as the Kalmanoff Study (3731k PDF - please note it may take some time to download), through a public records request.
- Allegheny County Defender's Office problems violate rights of accused, ACLU says (Post-Gazette, 10.18.11)
- Training essential for public defenders (Post-Gazette, 10.17.11)
- Public defenders note district attorney inequalities (Post-Gazette, 10.17.11)
- Report says Pa. failing the poor in courts (Post-Gazette, 10.17.11)
- Report requested by county blasts public defender's office (Post-Gazette, 10.16.11)
- One man's case from start to finish: Five attorneys and five months in jail included (Post-Gazette, 10.16.11)
- Public defender: Improvements under way (Post-Gazette, 10.16.11)
- Anonymous report blames funding, county officials for public defender's problems (Post-Gazette, 10.16.11)