Connecticut as a Leader
The Declaration of Rights of the Connecticut Constitution states that a person accused of breaking the law has the right to use the services of a lawyer, but only if the accused person could afford to hire one.
The Connecticut General Assembly enacts legislation to compensate attorneys who are assigned to defend poor defendants against criminal charges. Whether a poor person would or would not be assigned a lawyer was left to the trial judge.
The Connecticut General Assembly enacts legislation that specifically allows lawyers for indigent people to be compensated in cases involving the death penalty or life imprisonment at a fee of $10 per day.
The Connecticut General Assembly expands the legislation to compensate defense attorneys for services such as investigations in cases involving the death penalty or life imprisonment.
The Connecticut General Assembly allows defense attorneys to be compensated for their time and necessary expenses in felony criminal cases, except appeals.
The Connecticut General Assembly specifically authorizes the compensation of lawyers assigned to represent indigent persons in the Court of Common Pleas at a fee of $5.00 per day.
The Connecticut General Assembly adopts the first statewide public defender system in the country --- one public defender per county to be appointed by the judges of the Superior Court.
The Connecticut General Assembly enacts "An Act Concerning A Public Defender Services Commission" as an independent agency with responsibility for setting policies, hiring public defenders, and appointing a chief and deputy chief public defender to oversee the administration of the system. The legislation, Public Act 74-317, passes the House of Representatives and Senate unanimously. State Representatives Samuel Freedman and James Bingham are the primary sponsors in the House and Senator Scalo the primary sponsor in the Senate. The bill is signed into law by Governor Thomas Meskill.
The Appellate Unit is established and a Habeas Corpus attorney appointed.
The first Chief Investigator is appointed and three full-time public defenders are hired to represent juveniles who are accused of crimes.
Educational programs for public defenders, investigators and clerical staff are developed. Specialized training programs for newly appointed public defenders are established.
The first 5-day residential trial advocacy program is offered for public defenders.
The Division handles its first death penalty case. All but two offices have a full-time investigator. Legal clinics at the University of Connecticut and Bridgeport Schools of Law assist with appeals.
The Capital Defense Unit is established, the first Chief Social Worker is appointed, and the Division holds the first in-depth seminar on the death penalty in Connecticut.
Social work services are provided to clients in every public defender office. Public defenders begin representing clients before the Psychiatric Security Review Board.
The Division's first computers are purchased and installed. Five teams of public defenders and social workers are hired under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act.
The first Personnel Director and Legal Counsel are appointed.
The first full-time Director of Training is appointed.
The Department of Veterans Affairs establishes the first "Stand Down" where on-site legal representation is provided by Public Defenders to resolve minor criminal and motor vehicle cases.
A Criminal Appellate Clinic at Quinnipiac Law School is established by the Division and taught by Appellate public defenders. The Clinic continues to be active today.
The Committee to Preserve and Enhance Client and Professional Dignity is established.
An agreement is reached in Rivera v. Rowland, et al. providing additional resources and staff to the Division. New caseload goals are adopted. Computers and state-of-the-art legal research software are purchased for every attorney. A Director of Special Public Defenders is appointed.
The Division of Public Defender Services celebrates its 25th anniversary. The first woman Chief Investigator is appointed.