The District of Columbia’s system for ensuring criminal defense for the poor is undergoing massive changes. Over the next year, D.C.’s Public Defender Service will substantially increase its representation of indigent criminal defendants — leaving less work for the nearly 600 private-sector lawyers who practice under the Criminal Justice Act.

The shift comes at a time when fewer felony cases are being brought and CJA lawyers are already scrambling for court-appointed clients. Adding to the CJA bar’s frustrations is a plan by local judges to impose a host of new regulations for assigning cases that may make it tougher for lawyers to win appointment to more serious and lucrative matters.

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