Some criminal defendants who have property and means for paying for a lawyer are getting away with a dodge – they ask for, and get, a court-appointed lawyer paid on the public dime, according to a news report by A.J. Lagoe, an investigative reporter with Channel 8 in Richmond.
Defendants fill out a form to declare what property they own. If they leave the assets section blank or fill in zeroes, there isn’t much follow-up or checking done.
The problem stems from the fact that, according to the Court-Appointed Guidelines and Procedures Manual, courts may investigate the circumstances of the case but aren’t required to do so. In an era of reduced resources, courts simply don’t have anyone to do that research.
The General Assembly may need to look at the issue next year, said Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond.
– Paul Fletcher