To study the system of defense of indigent persons in criminal law matters in Texas, collect data and other information relevant to their defense and to develop recommendations for action by the State Bar of Texas, the Texas legislature and all other entities that are or should be involved in the provision of quality representation to indigent persons involved in criminal matters.
For questions related to the Legal Services to the Poor in Criminal Matters Standing Committee, please contact the Legal Access Division, or the staff liaison:
The committee was established in 1994 to improve the representation of indigent Texans in criminal matters. To that end, the Committee administered surveys to criminal defense lawyers, prosecutors, and judges before and after enactment of the Texas Fair Defense Act. The general conclusion reached was that the provision of legal services to indigent Texans could be significantly improved.
In 2005, the State Capital Habeas Project was created. Eventually, with the support of Martha Dickie, Past President of the State Bar of Texas, and the State Bar Task Force on Habeas Counsel Training and Qualifications, the state Office of Capital Writs was created and funded by the legislature in 2009.
Another major Committee accomplishment was the unanimous adoption by the State Bar Board of Directors, of the Committee's Texas-specific version of the American Bar Association's Guidelines for Counsel in Capital Cases [PDF]. The Guidelines are a comprehensive tool available to assist attorneys appointed to represent indigent Texans in death-penalty matters. The Guidelines were published in the November 2006 issue of the Texas Bar Journal, and subsequently distributed widely to attorneys and judges working in this area of law. The adoption of the Guidelines is truly a great accomplishment for the Committee.
The Committee has also developed the Guidelines for Counsel in Non-Capital Cases [PDF], which are modeled after similar guidelines compiled by the American Bar Association. In addition to an addendum on mental health guidelines, the proposed guidelines emphasize law unique to Texas.
The committee has also recently developed a brochure (English - Spanish) for distribution statewide, to provide information to defendants considering representing themselves in misdemeanor criminal cases.
The Legal Services to the Poor in Criminal Matters Committee annually recognizes the work and contributions of those who make extraordinary contributions to improve the quality of criminal legal representation to indigents in Texas through the Warren Burnett Award and the Michael K. Moore Award.
Warren Burnett AwardNamed for the legendary Texas attorney Warren Burnett, the award honors either an individual or organization for their work in the courtroom, legislature, or in the public space. Both individuals (either private citizens or members of the Bar) and organizations are eligible to be nominated. The contribution to be recognized may have occurred over the prior year or be recognition of a cumulative effort over several years so long as the contribution has been significant. Nomination form [PDF]
Michael K. Moore Award for Excellence in Research or Writing in the Area of Indigent Criminal Defense
The award is named after Doctor Michael K. Moore for his pivotal role in several research and writing efforts that had a major effect on indigent defense in Texas. The award will be presented to an individual (including both private citizens and members of the Bar) or an organization in recognition of exceptional research or writing that deals with indigent criminal defense and that represents a significant contribution to the knowledge and practices of the bench, bar, and scholarly communities. Nomination Form [PDF]
For more information or to make a nomination for this award, contact the Legal Access Division at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-204-2222, ext. 1855.
Term Ends 2015
Term Ends 2016
Term Ends 2017
Catherine G. Burnett