Dallas Public Defenders’ Caseload to Lighten


Judge's gavel | Image by Daniel Jedzura

The 98 public defenders serving the 2.6 million residents of Dallas County will soon be getting some help, according to Lynn Richardson, chief public defender for Dallas County.

“We are in the process of hiring 12 additional attorneys funded by a grant we received from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission,” Richardson told The Dallas Express. The grant will be used to reduce the caseloads in misdemeanor courts.

In the United States, a suspect has a guaranteed right to legal counsel, according to the United States Constitution. The Eighth Amendment in the Bill of Rights lays out this right.

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence,” the document reads.

If a person is accused of a crime but cannot afford a lawyer or defense attorney, the court will appoint one. These court-appointed attorneys that serve the indigent are called public defenders.

Public defenders often work long hours in stressful environments and have an excessive number of cases.

“When I started here, we had high caseloads, and for me, since I’ve committed to doing the work that I do and because I committed to helping people, it wasn’t a problem for me. I always tell people that come here, ‘This isn’t for everybody, and if you can’t handle that kind of docket, then this is probably not the place for you.’ Public defenders all across the country are faced with that,” said Richardson.

Richardson told The Dallas Express that, on average, Dallas public defenders in the adult criminal courts deal with roughly 25,000 cases a year. If other smaller divisions are added, she estimates an additional 3,000 cases a year.

Richardson said her office is like a huge law firm with various positions, with supervisors managing attorneys in certain divisions. So, if caseloads are too much for some defenders, others are available to help.

“If somebody’s out or overwhelmed, they work as partners. If I’m in court and I have a light docket, and somebody else has a heavy docket or is in trial and needs help, then we’ve got people that are helping,” Richardson explained.

The Dallas County Public Defender’s Office is the largest public defender office of its kind in the state of Texas, according to the county website.

“The office is comprised of felony, misdemeanor, juvenile, CPS, family, mental health, DNA, appellate, and capital murder defense attorneys, who are assigned to thirty-six courts in four different buildings,” the website states.

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Cynthia Hardy
Cynthia Hardy
1 month ago

Thanku 4 ur hard work.