Our primary service is providing appellate counsel. As such we are able to meet the deadlines imposed by the appellate courts. The quality of the appellate work is constantly being improved (due to training and experience). Both the clients and the system benefit from the fact that the appellate courts can handle these cases easier and faster. This has, and will, cut down on the complaints and post conviction relief applications related to the appellate representation. The feed-back received to date from the appellate courts has been positive about the improvements. They prefer dealing with a limited number of attorneys who know the rules and produce quality briefs. Our handling the appeals also frees up the trial attorneys, so that they can concentrate on moving their cases through the district courts.
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We accept all appeals in felony cases from a district office where that office would have been appointed. This includes the cases wherein an out-of-time appeal is granted by the district court and those cases where the private counsel withdraws. It also includes felony-grade adjudications in juvenile cases.
As an appellate unit we focus on issues which may be raised by direct appeal.
We are limited by our contracts to handling non-capital felony appeals. This excludes misdemeanors, pre-trial writs, non-support, child in need of care and termination matters, which may be handled by the district offices. We provide limited assistance in these cases, by supplying forms or brief advice upon request of the district seeking to handle the case. We do not deal with post-conviction relief in any form.
Beyond our primary purpose of handling the appeals, thereby relieving the district PDO, and its trial attorneys of these duties, we offer some additional services. We seek and provide information from and to the district offices and individual public defenders via e-mail. These messages do not fit into neat little categories. They usually deal forms, discussion of cases, assistance on when and how to seek an appeal. Given that we read the trial transcripts and see the decisions, we believe we will be in a position to offer some advice, especially to and through the District Defenders. The point, obviously, is not to criticize the trial work, but to improve the representation provided to our joint clients. These messages are sent at irregular intervals. E-mail has proven to be an appropriate and rapid means of getting and receiving information. Other of our attorneys, especially the supervisors, also have answered questions regarding the law from trial counsel. It is sometimes useful to discuss how to set up an issue prior to trial, rather than wait until after the trial to consider it.