Right to Counsel

The Sixth Amendment right to counsel is central to the Center's mission. The Center researches defense delivery systems, studies best practices, and investigates strategies to increase access to defense services. The Center also supports a vast community of public defense researchers, advocates, and policymakers.

GIDEON in New York

Gauging Improvement in Defense Efforts and Outcomes in New York (GIDEON) investigates the impact of New York State’s increased funding of public defense. The study explores whether reductions in indigent defense caseloads produce higher quality lawyering and considers how caseload reductions impact clients and their communities.

Defense Organization and Outcomes

Conducted in collaboration with Paul Heaton at the Quattrone Center, this empirical research project compares case outcomes obtained by four public defense subdivisions of the King County Department of Public Defense. Preliminary results (previewed at a 2020 CJR Workshop) suggest distinct organizational characteristics and outcomes.

Initial Appearance Campaign

Most Americans expect that, if they are arrested, they will quickly appear before a judge, learn about the charges, and have an attorney assigned to defend them. The reality is vastly different. After arrest, a person can wait in jail for days, weeks, or even months before seeing a judge or meeting an attorney. Read our report and recommendations.

Scraping for Time

Using advanced HTML scraping techniques, Deason researchers successfully gathered and merged county-level jail and court data from three Iowa sites. This proof-of-concept project demonstrates that online public records can provide researchers with valuable information, such as how long defendants wait in jail before their first court appearance.

The Discovery Practices Project

Defense attorneys have a constitutional duty to investigate their clients’ cases, and that duty includes reviewing the evidence provided by prosecutors. Using event log data from electronic discovery transfers, the Center is studying the associations between a defendant's race and the timing and frequency of their lawyer's discovery review.

Indigent Defense Research Association

The Indigent Defense Research Association (IDRA) is a community of practitioners, researchers, funders, and policy analysts committed to improving public defense through research and data. The Center hosts IDRA’s monthly webinars and provides logistical support for its annual meetings at the American Society of Criminology.

Rhodes v. Vannoy

The Center’s representation of Troy Rhodes vindicates the right to counsel. Represented at trial by an overworked public defender, Mr. Rhodes was convicted and sentenced to 149 years in jail. Sixteen years later, the Deason Center persuaded a federal court that Mr. Rhodes' trial lawyer was constitutionally ineffective and obtained an order for a new trial.

Best Practices in Federal Defense

Through a data-focused assessment of federal public defense practice, the Deason Center is exploring factors that shape client outcomes. The Center launched this project with a single federal defender office and hopes to repeat the study in other jurisdictions, aggregating the data to identify which practices are associated with improved case outcomes.

Article: The Court is in Recession: On the Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Indigent Defense Spending

How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact indigent defense budgets in the United States? During times of fiscal stress, redistributive policiespolicies that use taxpayer funds to support people who pay little or no taxes—are particularly susceptible to spending cuts. However, during the Great Recession of 2007-2009, Texas' indigent defense spending was generally stable, even in the hardest-hit counties.

Andrew Davies, Victoria Smiegocki, and Hannah Hall, The Court is in Recession: On the Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Indigent Defense Spending, __Ohio St. J. Crim.Law __ (2021) (forthcoming). 

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).

Podcast: Dr. Andrew Davies on Rural Access to Counsel

On the Ipse Dixit podcast, Dr. Andrew Davies discusses his article, Gideon in the Desert: An Empirical Study of Providing Counsel to Criminal Defendants in Rural Places. Dr. Davies describes the challenge of providing counsel to rural defendants and identifies traits associated with rural counties that are more successful in meeting the Sixth Amendment's mandate.

May 5, 2020

Article: Criminal (Dis)Appearance

Amid the national conversation about criminal legal reform, this article is the first scholarly work to address the initial appearance crisis. Criminal (Dis)Appearance describes an epidemic of detention-without-process and explores the legal landscape that produced it. The article describes the Supreme Court's commitment to a narrow Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and critiques the Court's rejection of early-stage criminal due process rights. The authors explain how substantive and procedural due process establish the right to a prompt and thorough initial appearance. 

Pamela R. Metzger and Janet C. Hoeffel, Criminal (Dis)Appearance, 88 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 392 (2020).