Greening STAR Legal Deserts

 

Overview

 

The Center’s Greening the Desert initiative addresses the scarcity of criminal lawyers in the nation’s small, tribal, and rural (STAR) communities. Launched in 2020, with the publication of Greening the Desert: Strategies and Innovations to Recruit, Train, and Retain Criminal Law Practitioners for STAR Communities, this initiative includes empirical research on the delivery of rural Sixth Amendment services, a  rural summer externship, and a series of webinars about rural criminal practice. To promote innovation and reform, Center faculty and staff consult with state and local governments from Texas to Colorado to California and beyond, advising them on best practices to increase rural access to high-quality prosecution and defense.

 

 

Our Publications & Resources

 

Webinar: The Right to Counsel in Rural America

This conversation examined the challenges of providing indigent defense services in rural areas of the United States where lawyers are scarce and long distances separate courts, law offices, and jails. Deason Center researchers Dr. Andrew Davies and Dr. Victoria Smiegocki discussed their research on the topic with criminal defense attorneys working in rural areas.

One-Pager: Greening the Desert

Greening the Desert brings a criminal justice lens to the phenomenon of STAR legal desertsvast areas with few, if any, practicing attorneys. This one-pager highlights key strategies to green these criminal law deserts. The full Greening the Desert report offers detailed examples and case studies that describe successful implementation of strategies to recruit, train, and retain STAR justice practitioners. An accompanying webinar explores the national landscape and chronicles how two STAR criminal lawyers found their way to rural practice.

Greening the Desert (One-Pager), Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (September 2020).

Webinar: Greening the Desert

This webinar explores strategies and initiatives to recruit, train, and retain STAR criminal justice practitioners. Lawyers describe their own journeys to STAR criminal practice and join researchers in a discussion of best practices for greening STAR legal deserts.

Report: Greening the Desert

Greening the Desert brings a criminal justice lens to the phenomenon of legal deserts in STAR communities—vast areas with few, if any, practicing attorneys. The report explores STAR criminal justice communities and describes strategies and initiatives to green these criminal law deserts. Using case studies, the report offers concrete examples of successful innovations. It also includes cautionary notes about risks that may arise with the implementation of strategies to recruit, train, and retain STAR practitioners. A companion webinar explores the national landscape and chronicles how two STAR criminal lawyers found their way to rural practice.

 

Metzger, P., Meeks, K., & Pishko, J., Greening the Desert: Strategies and Innovations to Recruit, Train, and Retain Criminal Law Practitioners for STAR Communities, Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center (Sept. 2020).

Article: Gideon in the Desert: An Empirical Study of Providing Counsel to Criminal Defendants in Rural Places

The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is a continuing challenge in rural areas. This Article  describes an exploratory analysis of Texas data about rural and urban access to counsel, including rules governing the eligibility for appointed counsel services and the appointment-of-counsel rate. The authors report that appointment-of-counsel rates were significantly lower in rural counties.  Low lawyer populations were associated with especially low levels of access to counsel.  In contrast, the presence of an organized defense provider was associated with significantly higher rates of access to counsel. 

Andrew Davies and Alyssa Clark, Gideon in the Desert: An Empirical Study of Providing Counsel to Criminal Defendants in Rural Places71 Me. L. Rev. 245 (2019).

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