DELAWARE PUBLIC DEFENDER ASSUMES MANAGEMENT OF THE CONFLICT COUNSEL PROGRAM
The U.S. Constitution and Delaware law require appointment and payment of conflict counsel to represent indigent criminal defendants who cannot be served by the Delaware Public Defender's Office. The difficult question has been how to deliver those services in a manner that is effective and cost efficient. The Fiscal Year 2012 budget bill paved the way for the creation of the new Office of Conflict Counsel ("OCC") which falls under the Public Defender's Office ("PDO"), and eliminates the patchwork team of judges, secretaries, court clerks and court administrators that previously managed the conflicts counsel program on an ad hoc basis. The OCC provides a separate structure between the conflict program and the PDO's other work, which is necessary to address ethical concerns. On November 1, 2011, the OCC assumed the administration of Delaware's criminal conflicts counsel in the Superior Court and the Court of Common Pleas. The OCC is staffed by a full time lawyer, Stephanie Volturo, Chief Conflict Counsel, joined by paralegal Jennifer Young. Its administration functions independently from the PDO.
The new program relieves the judiciary of the obligations of administering Delaware's criminal conflicts counsel program, thereby eliminating any potential ethical concerns that can arise when judges hire and pay appointed criminal defense counsel. It also consolidates the administration of the conflict counsel program into a single office which standardizes procedures, with the goal of creating a more efficient and cost effective system for providing conflict defense services. "We look forward to providing top flight representation for clients who would otherwise be ineligible for Public Defender representation. The new OCC will be well served by Stephanie and her team," said Brendan O'Neill, Delaware Public Defender.