While a Philadelphia city councilman continues to fight the city’s push to establish a for-profit organization to represent indigent defendants in criminal cases where the public defender’s office has a conflict, the city is pursuing an additional project in the family court realm.
The new, separate request for proposals issued by the city calls for a contract for legal representation of indigent parents in dependency court proceedings.
The creation of the new RFP comes amid Councilman Dennis O’Brien’s efforts to halt the advance of the city’s existing conflict counsel initiatives.
On Thursday, O’Brien spoke before the city council, detailing new measures he was taking to introduce more oversight into the conflict counsel process.
In his written remarks, O’Brien said he initially brought his concerns before Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter on Oct. 18 in order to “discuss [Nutter’s] defective for-profit model in the hopes that he would change his course. In that conversation I stated that I was not going away on this issue. I respectfully told the mayor that I am digging in with my staff because proper legal representation is a constitutional right and this is an inherently flawed model.”
Prior to O’Brien’s remarks before the council, the council’s Committee on Law and Government held a public hearing Oct. 8 to discuss the viability and transparency of process in the city’s conflict counsel initiatives.
The measures proposed Thursday by O’Brien include establishing reporting and auditing requirements for certain contracts for conflict counsel for indigent individuals.
This bill would require Nutter to submit to the council a comprehensive performance and financial audit report. The audit will be performed by a “seasoned third party” from the indigent defense world, O’Brien said.
Read more in an upcoming edition of The Legal.