Article 39B.

Indigent Defense Services Act.

7A-498. Title.

This Article shall be known and may be cited as the "Indigent Defense Services Act of 2000". (2000-144, s. 1.)

 

7A-498.1. Purpose.

Whenever a person is determined to be indigent and entitled to counsel, it is the responsibility of the State under the federal and state constitutions to provide that person with counsel and the other necessary expenses of representation. The purpose of this Article is to:

(1) Enhance oversight of the delivery of counsel and related services provided at State expense;

(2) Improve the quality of representation and ensure the independence of counsel;

(3) Establish uniform policies and procedures for the delivery of services;

(4) Generate reliable statistical information in order to evaluate the services provided and funds expended; and

(5) Deliver services in the most efficient and cost-effective manner without sacrificing quality representation. (2000-144, s. 1.)

 

7A-498.2. Establishment of Office of Indigent Defense Services.

(a) The Office of Indigent Defense Services, which is administered by the Director of Indigent Defense Services and includes the Commission on Indigent Defense Services and the Sentencing Services Program established in Article 61 of this Chapter, is created within the Administrative Office of the Courts. As used in this Article, "Office" means the Office of Indigent Defense Services, "Director" means the Director of Indigent Defense Services, and "Commission" means the Commission on Indigent Defense Services.

(b) Except as provided otherwise by this section, the Office of Indigent Defense Services may exercise its prescribed powers independently of the head of the Administrative Office of the Courts. The Office may enter into contracts, own property, and accept funds, grants, and gifts from any public or private source to pay expenses incident to implementing its purposes.

(c) The Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts shall provide general administrative support to the Office of Indigent Defense Services. The term "general administrative support" includes purchasing, payroll, and similar administrative services.

(d) The budget of the Office of Indigent Defense Services shall be a part of the budget of the Administrative Office of the Courts. The Administrative Office of the Courts shall conduct an annual audit of the budget of the Office of Indigent Defense Services.

(e) The Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts may modify the budget of the Office of Indigent Defense Services and may use funds appropriated to the Office without the approval of the Commission or the Office of Indigent Defense Services. (2000-144, s. 1; 2002-126, s. 14.7(b); 2015-241, s. 18A.17(b).)

 

7A-498.3. Responsibilities of Office of Indigent Defense Services.

(a) The Office of Indigent Defense Services shall be responsible for establishing, supervising, and maintaining a system for providing legal representation and related services in the following cases:

(1) Cases in which an indigent person is subject to a deprivation of liberty or other constitutionally protected interest and is entitled by law to legal representation;

(2) Cases in which an indigent person is entitled to legal representation under G.S. 7A-451 and G.S. 7A-451.1;

(2a) Cases in which the State is legally obligated to provide legal assistance and access to the courts to inmates in the custody of the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice of the Department of Public Safety; and

(3) Any other cases in which the Office of Indigent Defense Services is designated by statute as responsible for providing legal representation.

(b) The Office of Indigent Defense Services shall develop policies and procedures for determining indigency in cases subject to this Article, and those policies shall be applied uniformly throughout the State. Except in cases under subdivision (2a) of subsection (a) of this section, the court shall determine in each case whether a person is indigent and entitled to legal representation, and counsel shall be appointed as provided in G.S. 7A-452.

(b1) The Office of Indigent Defense Services shall develop a model appointment plan with minimum qualification standards for appointed private counsel by July 1, 2019, for adoption and promulgation by each judicial district. Judicial districts may request modifications to the model plan and qualification standards. If a judicial district has not adopted an appointment plan with the Indigent Defense Services' minimum qualification standards by January 2, 2021, the model plan and qualification standards developed by Indigent Defense Services will become effective on that date in that judicial district. Indigent Defense Services shall review the model plan and qualification standards every five years and, in the event it modifies the model plan and/or qualification standards, shall notify the judicial districts of the change. Judicial districts will have 18 months from the date Indigent Defense Services gives notice of a change to seek modifications to the revised model plan or to the qualification standards.

(c) In all cases subject to this Article, appointment of counsel, determination of compensation, appointment of experts, and use of funds for experts and other services related to legal representation shall be in accordance with rules and procedures adopted by the Office of Indigent Defense Services.

(d) The Office of Indigent Defense Services shall allocate and disburse funds appropriated for legal representation and related services in cases subject to this Article pursuant to rules and procedures established by the Office. (2000-144, s. 1; 2005-276, s. 14.9(a); 2011-145, s. 19.1(h); 2017-186, s. 2(i); 2018-40, s. 6.)

 

7A-498.4. Establishment of Commission on Indigent Defense Services.

(a) The Commission on Indigent Defense Services is created within the Office of Indigent Defense Services and shall consist of 13 members. To create an effective working group, assure continuity, and achieve staggered terms, the Commission shall be appointed as provided in this section.

(b) The members of the Commission shall be appointed as follows:

(1) The Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court shall appoint one member, who shall be an active or former member of the North Carolina judiciary.

(2) The Governor shall appoint one member, who shall be a nonattorney.

(3) The General Assembly shall appoint one member, who shall be an attorney, upon the recommendation of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

(4) The General Assembly shall appoint one member, who shall be an attorney, upon the recommendation of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

(5) The North Carolina Public Defenders Association shall appoint member, who shall be an attorney.

(6) The North Carolina State Bar shall appoint one member, who shall be an attorney.

(7) The North Carolina Bar Association shall appoint one member, who shall be an attorney.

(8) The North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers shall appoint one member, who shall be an attorney.

(9) The North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers shall appoint one member, who shall be an attorney.

(10) The North Carolina Association of Women Lawyers shall appoint one member, who shall be an attorney.

(11) The Commission shall appoint three members, who shall reside in different judicial districts from one another. One appointee shall be a nonattorney, and one appointee may be an active member of the North Carolina judiciary. One appointee shall be Native American. The initial three members satisfying this subdivision shall be appointed as provided in subsection (k) of this section.

(c) The terms of members appointed pursuant to subsection (b) of this section shall be as follows:

(1) The initial appointments by the Chief Justice, the Governor, and the General Assembly shall be for four years.

(2) The initial appointments by the Public Defenders Association and State Bar, and one appointment by the Commission, shall be for three years.

(3) The initial appointments by the Bar Association and Trial Academy, and one appointment by the Commission, shall be for two years.

(4) The initial appointments by the Black Lawyers Association and Women Lawyers Association, and one appointment by the Commission, shall be for one year.

At the expiration of these initial terms, appointments shall be for four years and shall be made by the appointing authorities designated in subsection (b) of this section. No person shall serve more than two consecutive four-year terms plus any initial term of less than four years.

(d) Persons appointed to the Commission shall have significant experience in the defense of criminal or other cases subject to this Article or shall have demonstrated a strong commitment to quality representation in indigent defense matters. No active prosecutors or law enforcement officials, or active employees of such persons, may be appointed to or serve on the Commission. No active judicial officials, or active employees of such persons, may be appointed to or serve on the Commission, except as provided in subsection (b) of this section. No active public defenders, active employees of public defenders, or other active employees of the Office of Indigent Defense Services may be appointed to or serve on the Commission, except that notwithstanding this subsection, G.S. 14-234, or any other provision of law, Commission members may include part-time public defenders employed by the Office of Indigent Defense Services and may include persons, or employees of persons or organizations, who provide legal services subject to this Article as contractors or appointed attorneys.

(e) All members of the Commission are entitled to vote on any matters coming before the Commission unless otherwise provided by rules adopted by the Commission concerning voting on matters in which a member has, or appears to have, a financial or other personal interest.

(f) Each member of the Commission shall serve until a successor in office has been appointed. Vacancies shall be filled by appointment by the appointing authority for the unexpired term. Removal of Commission members shall be in accordance with policies and procedures adopted by the Commission.

(g) A quorum for purposes of conducting Commission business shall be a majority of the members of the Commission.

(h) The Commission shall elect a Commission chair from the members of the Commission for a term of two years.

(i) The Director of Indigent Defense Services shall attend all Commission meetings except those relating to removal or reappointment of the Director or allegations of misconduct by the Director. The Director shall not vote on any matter decided by the Commission.

(j) Commission members shall not receive compensation but are entitled to be paid necessary subsistence and travel expenses in accordance with G.S. 138-5 and G.S. 138-6 as applicable.

(k) The Commission shall hold its first meeting no later than September 15, 2000. All appointments to the Commission specified in subdivisions (1) through (10) of subsection (b) of this section shall be made by the appointing authorities by September 1, 2000. The appointee of the Chief Justice shall convene the first meeting. No later than 30 days after its first meeting, the Commission shall make the appointments specified in subdivision (11) of subsection (b) of this section and shall elect its chair. (2000-144, s. 1; 2001-424, s. 22.11(b).)

 

7A-498.5. Responsibilities of Commission.

(a) The Commission shall have as its principal purpose the development and improvement of programs by which the Office of Indigent Defense Services provides legal representation to indigent persons.

(b) The Commission shall appoint the Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services, who shall be chosen on the basis of training, experience, and other qualifications. The Commission shall consult with the Chief Justice and Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts in selecting a Director, but shall have final authority in making the appointment.

(c) The Commission shall develop standards governing the provision of services under this Article. The standards shall include:

(1) Standards for maintaining and operating regional and district public defender offices and appellate defender offices, including requirements regarding qualifications, training, and size of the legal and supporting staff;

(2) Standards prescribing minimum experience, training, and other qualifications for appointed counsel;

(3) Standards for public defender and appointed counsel caseloads;

(4) Standards for the performance of public defenders and appointed counsel;

(5) Standards for the independent, competent, and efficient representation of clients whose cases present conflicts of interest, in both the trial and appellate courts;

(6) Standards for providing and compensating experts and others who provide services related to legal representation;

(7) Standards for qualifications and performance in capital cases, consistent with any rules adopted by the Supreme Court; and

(8) Standards for determining indigency and for assessing and collecting the costs of legal representation and related services.

(d) The Commission shall determine the methods for delivering legal services to indigent persons eligible for legal representation under this Article and shall establish in each district or combination of districts a system of appointed counsel, contract counsel, part-time public defenders, public defender offices, appellate defender services, and other methods for delivering counsel services, or any combination of these services.

(e) In determining the method of services to be provided in a particular district, the Director shall consult with the district bar as defined in G.S. 84-19 and the judges of the district or districts under consideration. The Commission shall adopt procedures ensuring that affected local bars have the opportunity to be significantly involved in determining the method or methods for delivering services in their districts. The Commission shall solicit written comments from the affected local district bar, senior resident superior court judge, and chief district court judge. Those comments, along with the recommendations of the Commission, shall be forwarded to the members of the General Assembly who represent the affected district and to other interested parties.

(f) Subject to G.S. 7A-498.2(e) the Commission shall establish policies and procedures with respect to the distribution of funds appropriated under this Article, including rates of compensation for appointed counsel, schedules of allowable expenses, appointment and compensation of expert witnesses, and procedures for applying for and receiving compensation. The rate of compensation set for expert witnesses may be no greater than the rate set by the Administrative Office of the Courts under G.S. 7A-314(d).

(g) Repealed by Session Laws 2015-241, s. 18A.17(c), effective July 1, 2015.

(h) The Commission shall adopt such other rules and procedures as it deems necessary for the conduct of business by the Commission and the Office of Indigent Defense Services. (2000-144, s. 1; 2001-392, s. 2; 2011-145, s. 15.20; 2015-241, s. 18A.17(c); 2015-268, s. 6.3.)

 

7A-498.6. Director of Indigent Defense Services.

(a) The Director of Indigent Defense Services shall be appointed by the Commission for a term of four years. The salary of the Director shall be set by the General Assembly in the Current Operations Appropriations Act, after consultation with the Commission. The Director may be removed during this term in the discretion of the Commission by a vote of two-thirds of all of the Commission members. The Director shall be an attorney licensed and eligible to practice in the courts of this State at the time of appointment and at all times during service as the Director.

(b) The Director shall:

(1) Prepare and submit to the Commission a proposed budget for the Office of Indigent Defense Services, an annual report containing pertinent data on the operations, costs, and needs of the Office, and such other information as the Commission may require;

(2) Assist the Commission in developing rules and standards for the delivery of services under this Article;

(3) Administer and coordinate the operations of the Office and supervise compliance with standards adopted by the Commission;

(4) Subject to policies and procedures established by the Commission, hire such professional, technical, and support personnel as deemed reasonably necessary for the efficient operation of the Office of Indigent Defense Services;

(5) Keep and maintain proper financial records for use in calculating the costs of the operations of the Office of Indigent Defense Services;

(6) Apply for and accept on behalf of the Office of Indigent Defense Services any funds that may become available from government grants, private gifts, donations, or devises from any source;

(7) Coordinate the services of the Office of Indigent Defense Services with any federal, county, or private programs established to provide assistance to indigent persons in cases subject to this Article and consult with professional bodies concerning improving the administration of indigent services;

(8) Conduct training programs for attorneys and others involved in the legal representation of persons subject to this Article;

(8a) Administer the Sentencing Services Program established in Article 61 of this Chapter; and

(9) Perform other duties as the Commission may assign.

(c) In lieu of merit and other increment raises paid to regular State employees, the Director of Indigent Defense Services shall receive as longevity pay an amount equal to four and eight-tenths percent (4.8%) of the annual salary set forth in the Current Operations Appropriations Act payable monthly after five years of service, nine and six-tenths percent (9.6%) after 10 years of service, fourteen and four-tenths percent (14.4%) after 15 years of service, nineteen and two-tenths percent (19.2%) after 20 years of service, and twenty-four percent (24%) after 25 years of service. "Service" means service as Director of Indigent Defense Services, a public defender, appellate defender, assistant public or appellate defender, district attorney, assistant district attorney, justice or judge of the General Court of Justice, or clerk of superior court. (2000-144, s. 1; 2002-126, s. 14.7(c); 2008-107, ss. 26.4(b), (c); 2011-284, s. 7.)

 

7A-498.7. Public Defender Offices.

(a) The following counties of the State are organized into the defender districts listed below, and in each of those defender districts an office of public defender is established:

Defender District Counties

1 Camden, Chowan, Currituck,

Dare, Gates, Pasquotank,

Perquimans

3A Pitt

3B Craven, Pamlico, Carteret

5 New Hanover

10 Wake

12 Cumberland

14 Durham

15B Orange, Chatham

16A Scotland, Hoke

16B Robeson

18 Guilford

21 Forsyth

26 Mecklenburg

27A Gaston

28 Buncombe

29A McDowell, Rutherford

29B Henderson, Polk, Transylvania

After notice to, and consultation with, the affected district bar, senior resident superior court judge, and chief district court judge, the Commission on Indigent Defense Services may recommend to the General Assembly that a district or regional public defender office be established. A legislative act is required in order to establish a new office or to abolish an existing office.

(b) For each new term, and to fill any vacancy, public defenders shall be appointed from a list of not less than three and not more than four names nominated as follows:

(1) Not less than two and not more than three by written ballot of the attorneys resident in the defender district who are licensed to practice law in North Carolina. The balloting shall be conducted pursuant to rules adopted by the Commission on Indigent Defense Services.

(2) One name submitted by the Administrative Officer of the Courts after consultation with the Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services.

(b1) The appointment required under subsection (b) of this section shall be made by the senior resident superior court judge of the superior court district or set of districts as defined in G.S. 7A-41.1 that includes the county or counties of the defender district for which the public defender is being appointed.

(c) A public defender shall be an attorney licensed to practice law in North Carolina and shall devote full time to the duties of the office. In lieu of merit and other increment raises paid to regular State employees, a public defender shall receive as longevity pay an amount equal to four and eight-tenths percent (4.8%) of the annual salary set forth in the Current Operations Appropriations Act payable monthly after five years of service, nine and six-tenths percent (9.6%) after 10 years of service, fourteen and four-tenths percent (14.4%) after 15 years of service, nineteen and two-tenths percent (19.2%) after 20 years of service, and twenty-four percent (24%) after 25 years of service. "Service" means service as a public defender, appellate defender, assistant public or appellate defender, district attorney, assistant district attorney, justice or judge of the General Court of Justice, or clerk of superior court.

(c1) When traveling on official business, each public defender and assistant public defender is entitled to reimbursement for his or her subsistence expenses to the same extent as State employees generally. When traveling on official business outside his or her county of residence, each public defender and assistant public defender is entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses to the same extent as State employees generally. For purposes of this subsection, the term "official business" does not include regular, daily commuting between a person's home and the public defender's office. Travel distances, for purposes of reimbursement for mileage, shall be determined according to the travel policy of the Administrative Office of the Courts.

(d) Subject to standards adopted by the Commission, the day-to-day operation and administration of public defender offices shall be the responsibility of the public defender in charge of the office. The public defender shall keep appropriate records and make periodic reports, as requested, to the Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services on matters related to the operation of the office.

(e) The Office of Indigent Defense Services shall procure office equipment and supplies for the public defender, and provide secretarial and library support from State funds appropriated to the public defender's office for this purpose.

(f) Each public defender is entitled to assistant public defenders, investigators, and other staff, full-time or part-time, as may be authorized by the Commission. Assistants, investigators, and other staff are appointed by the public defender and serve at the pleasure of the public defender. Average and minimum compensation of assistants shall be as provided in the biennial Current Operations Appropriations Act. The actual salaries of assistants shall be set by the public defender in charge of the office, subject to approval by the Commission. The Commission shall fix the compensation of investigators. Assistants and investigators shall perform such duties as may be assigned by the public defender.

(f1) In cases in which a public defender determines that a conflict of interest exists in the office, whenever practical, rather than obtaining private assigned counsel to resolve the conflict, the public defender may request the appointment of an assistant public defender from another office of public defender in the region to resolve the conflict.

(g) In lieu of merit and other increment raises paid to regular State employees, an assistant public defender shall receive as longevity pay an amount equal to four and eight-tenths percent (4.8%) of the annual salary set forth in the Current Operations Appropriations Act payable monthly after five years of service, nine and six-tenths percent (9.6%) after 10 years of service, fourteen and four-tenths percent (14.4%) after 15 years of service, nineteen and two-tenths percent (19.2%) after 20 years of service, and twenty-four percent (24%) after 25 years of service. "Service" means service as a public defender, appellate defender, assistant public or appellate defender, district attorney, assistant district attorney, justice or judge of the General Court of Justice, or clerk of superior court.

(h) The term of office of public defender appointed under this section is four years. A public defender or assistant public defender may be suspended or removed from office, and reinstated, for the same causes and under the same procedures as are applicable to removal of a district attorney.

(i) A public defender may apply to the Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services to enter into contracts with local governments for the provision by the State of services of temporary assistant public defenders pursuant to G.S. 153A-212.1 or G.S. 160A-289.1.

(j) The Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services may provide assistance requested pursuant to subsection (i) of this section only upon a showing by the requesting public defender, supported by facts, that the overwhelming public interest warrants the use of additional resources for the speedy disposition of cases involving drug offenses, domestic violence, or other offenses involving a threat to public safety.

(k) The terms of any contract entered into with local governments pursuant to subsection (i) of this section shall be fixed by the Director of the Office of Indigent Defense Services in each case. Nothing in this section shall be construed to obligate the General Assembly to make any appropriation to implement the provisions of this section or to obligate the Office of Indigent Defense Services to provide the administrative costs of establishing or maintaining the positions or services provided for under this section. Further, nothing in this section shall be construed to obligate the Office of Indigent Defense Services to maintain positions or services initially provided for under this section. (2000-144, s. 1; 2001-424, ss. 22.11(a), 22.11(d); 2002-126, s. 14.11(a); 2003-284, ss. 30.19A(c), (d); 2004-124, ss. 14.4(a), (b); 2005-276, s. 14.14(a); 2005-345, s. 50A; 2007-323, ss. 14.4(b), (d), 28.18A(g); 2008-107, s. 14.4; 2009-451, s. 15.17B(c); 2010-96, s. 27; 2011-145, s. 15.16(b); 2013-360, ss. 18A.5(a), 18A.6(a); 2018-5, s. 18A.2(a).)

 

7A-498.8. Appellate Defender.

(a) The appellate defender shall be appointed by the Commission on Indigent Defense Services for a term of four years. A vacancy in the office of appellate defender shall be filled by appointment of the Commission on Indigent Defense Services for the unexpired term. The appellate defender may be suspended or removed from office for cause by two-thirds vote of all the members of the Commission on Indigent Defense Services. The Commission shall provide the appellate defender with timely written notice of the alleged causes and an opportunity for hearing before the Commission prior to taking any final action to remove or suspend the appellate defender, and the appellate defender shall be given written notice of the Commission's decision. The appellate defender may obtain judicial review of suspension or removal by the Commission by filing a petition within 30 days of receiving notice of the decision with the Superior Court of Wake County. Review of the Commission's decision shall be heard on the record and not as a de novo review or trial de novo. The Commission shall adopt rules implementing this section.

(b) The appellate defender shall perform such duties as may be directed by the Office of Indigent Defense Services, including:

(1) Representing indigent persons subsequent to conviction in trial courts. The Office of Indigent Defense Services may, following consultation with the appellate defender and consistent with the resources available to the appellate defender to ensure quality criminal defense services by the appellate defender's office, assign appeals, or authorize the appellate defender to assign appeals, to a local public defender's office or to private assigned counsel.

(2) Maintaining a clearinghouse of materials and a repository of briefs prepared by the appellate defender to be made available to private counsel representing indigents in criminal cases.

(3) Providing continuing legal education training to assistant appellate defenders and to private counsel representing indigents in criminal cases, including capital cases, as resources are available.

(4) Providing consulting services to attorneys representing defendants in capital cases.

(5) Recruiting qualified members of the private bar who are willing to provide representation in State and federal death penalty postconviction proceedings.

(6) In the appellate defender's discretion, serving as counsel of record for indigent defendants in capital cases in State court.

(6a) In the appellate defender's discretion, serving as counsel of record for indigent defendants in the United States Supreme Court pursuant to a petition for writ of certiorari of the decision on direct appeal by a court of the North Carolina Appellate Division.

(7) Undertaking other direct representation and consultation in capital cases pending in federal court only to the extent that such work is fully federally funded.

(c) The appellate defender shall appoint assistants and staff, not to exceed the number authorized by the Office of Indigent Defense Services. The assistants and staff shall serve at the pleasure of the appellate defender.

(d) Funds to operate the office of appellate defender, including office space, office equipment, supplies, postage, telephone, library, staff salaries, training, and travel, shall be provided by the Office of Indigent Defense Services from funds authorized by law. Salaries shall be set by the Office of Indigent Defense Services. (2000-144, s. 1; 2007-323, s. 14.19(b); 2008-187, s. 3.)

 

7A-498.9. Annual report on Office of Indigent Defense Services.

The Office of Indigent Defense Services shall report to the Chairs of the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety and to the Chairs of the House of Representatives and Senate Committees on Justice and Public Safety by March 15 of each year on the following:

(1) The volume and cost of cases handled in each district by assigned counsel or public defenders;

(2) Actions taken by the Office to improve the cost-effectiveness and quality of indigent defense services, including the capital case program;

(3) Plans for changes in rules, standards, or regulations in the upcoming year; and

(4) Any recommended changes in law or funding procedures that would assist the Office in improving the management of funds expended for indigent defense services, including any recommendations concerning the feasibility and desirability of establishing regional public defender offices. (2014-100, s. 18B.1(j); 2015-241, s. 18B.1.)

 

7A-499. Reserved for future codification purposes.