CAFA Project Products

Alissa Pollitz Worden, Andrew L.B. Davies, Reveka V. Shteynberg,  &Kirstin A. Morgan. 2017. "Court Reform: Why Simple Solutions Might Not Fail? A Case Study of Implementation of Counsel at First Appearance." Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 14(2): 521-551.

Abstract: In this article we investigate the implementation of programs intended to ensure that defendants in criminal courts receive legal counsel at their first appearances before judges. Efforts to reform court practices are often stymied by courts’ fragmented and adversarial structures and by reformers’ misconceptions about how they operate. We find that the public defense administrators who voluntarily launched these programs largely overcame these difficulties by adopting incremental approaches to expanding defense services, designing programs that were adapted to local conditions, and by persevering in the face of political resistance.

Alissa Pollitz Worden, Reveka V. Shteynberg, Kirstin A. Morgan, & Andrew L.B. Davies. 2017. "Beyond the city limits: Evaluating court reforms in rural and small-town courts." Translational Criminology, 13.

Summary: A defendant’s first appearance in court is usually a brief affair, but the decisions made there—on charges, pretrial release, and bail—carry consequences for his or her economic security, family stability, and of course, verdict and sentencing. For this reason, experts and advocates argue that counsel at first appearance (CAFA) is essential to effective legal representation, and over the last decade legal rulings have edged toward cementing CAFA as a 6th Amendment right. But in many courts, defendants who cannot afford a private attorney, and have not yet been assigned a public defender, must face the bench alone. In 2013 the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services (ILS) invited counties’ indigent defense organizations to apply for grants to implement CAFA programs, emphasizing that counties should tailor their plans to local conditions and needs. In 2014 the National Institute of Justice awarded research funding to the University at Albany, in partnership with ILS, to evaluate the implementation and impacts of six of those CAFA programs. These six programs focused primarily on the many rural and small-town courts where CAFA was not already common practice. Most court research takes place in urban settings, where caseloads are large and record-keeping is computerized. But what we know about urban courts and reforms may not accurately describe rural jurisdictions. Over the course of (to date) 40 site visits (and 12,000 miles on our odometers), we observed firsthand the critical work that practitioners undertook to successfully implement their programs, and we also gained deeper understanding of the diverse organizational and political contexts in which these courts operate. The CAFA evaluation project offers lessons about reform and research in these small courts. First, reforms designed with urban courts in mind may not scale as expected onto smaller courts, and practitioners must be strategic in adapting them to their communities. Second, field research and data collection in these settings are resource-intensive undertakings, but researchers can capitalize on time spent in the field to better understand the distinctive dynamics of these courts. And third, the work required to meet these challenges has the potential to improve both the delivery of legal services and the quality of evaluation research.

Alissa Pollitz Worden, Kirstin A. Morgan, Reveka V. Shteynberg, & Andrew L.B. Davies. 2018. "What difference does a lawyer make? Impacts of early counsel on misdemeanor bail decisions and outcomes in rural and small town courts." Criminal Justice Policy Review.

Abstract: Recent court decisions and state legislation have highlighted the significance of ensuring that criminal defendants are represented by counsel at their first appearances in court, where judges make critical decisions on pretrial release, bail, and detention. Yet many jurisdictions do not routinely provide counsel to indigent defendants at this stage. We hypothesize that when defendants are represented by counsel at first appearance (CAFA), they are more likely to be released on recognizance, are less likely to have high bail set, and are consequently less likely to be jailed pending disposition. We explore the impact of lawyers’ presence by comparing pretrial decisions and bail outcomes across samples of misdemeanor cases in three rural counties in upstate New York: cases with and without CAFA. We find that these counties saw shifts in decisions or outcomes. We consider the implications of these findings for future research, court practices, and public policy.

Davies, Andrew L.B., Reveka V. Shteynberg, Kirstin A. Morgan, Alissa Pollitz Worden. (August 28, 2018). "Guaranteeing representation at first Court appearances may be better for defendants, and cheaper for local governments." London School of Economics United States Centre’s American Politics and Policy (LSE USAPP) Blog.   

Note: This article is based on the Worden et al. (2018) paper. We were asked by the LSE USAPP to summarize some of the main findings from our CJPR manuscript in a featured article for their lay readers.

Summary: “If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.” It’s a familiar phrase, but what does “appointed” really mean? In many jurisdictions in the United States, even after a judge appoints counsel for you, you may spend days or weeks in jail before you actually meet your lawyer. This article examines the impact of a program in upstate New York designed to provide counsel at first appearance (CAFA) in court to persons facing misdemeanor charges. We examined whether the presence of CAFA – that is, the physical presence of a lawyer at the defendant’s side – could change judges’ decisions to detain, release, and set bail. We compared detention outcomes before CAFA was introduced to those immediately after its introduction in three pseudonymous counties, ‘Bleek,’ ‘Lake,’ and ‘Hudson.’ Our results suggest two things. First, having counsel present at first appearances can change the pattern of decisions judges make. Judges may release more people with fewer conditions, and impose fewer financial barriers upon those from whom they demand bail, with the cumulative result that fewer people will be detained pretrial. Second, having counsel present may ultimately save incarceration costs – often rated at over a hundred dollars per inmate per day – which could save counties and other local governments money.

Additional Relevant Products

Kirstin A. Morgan, Reveka V. Shteynberg, Rebecca Ackerman, Cynthia G. Lee. 2018. "Incorporating Client Perspectives into Indigent Defense Research: A Guide for Practitioners." Washington, DC: National Legal Aid & Defenders Association (NLADA), 1-64. 

Andrew L.B. Davies and Janet Moore. 2017. "Critical Issues and New Empirical Research in Public Defense: An Introduction." Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 14(2): 337-344.

Janet Moore and Andrew L.B. Davies. 2017. "Knowing Defense." Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 14(2): 345-371.

Andrew L.B. Davies and Alissa Pollitz Worden. 2017. "Local Governance and Redistributive Policy: Explaining Local Funding for Public Defense." Law and Society Review, 51: 313-345.

Allison D. Redlich and Reveka V. Shteynberg. 2016. "To Plead or Not to Plead: A Comparison of Juvenile and Adult True and False Plea Decisions." Law and Human Behavior, 40(6): 611-625.

Andrew L.B. Davies. 2015. “How Do We ‘Do Data’ In Public Defense?” Albany Law Review 78(3): 1179-1192.

Alissa Pollitz Worden, Andrew L.B. Davies, and Elizabeth K. Brown. 2014. “Public Defense in an Age of Innocence: The Innocence Paradigm and the Challenges of Representing the Accused.” In Marvin Zalman and Julia Carrano (eds.) Wrongful Conviction and Criminal Justice Reform. New York: Routledge.

Andrew L.B. Davies and Angela Burton. 2015. “Why Gather Data on Parent Representation? The Pros, Cons, Promise and Pitfalls.” ABA Child Law Practice 34(4): 49, 54-57.

Alissa Pollitz Worden and Andrew L.B. Davies. 2013. “The Criminal Defense Professions.” G.J.N. Bruinsma and D.L. Weisburd (eds.) Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice. New York: Springer.

Alissa Pollitz Worden, Sarah J. McLean, and Megan Kennedy. 2013. "Sidestepping Justice? Adjournments in Contemplation of Dismissal in Misdemeanor Court." Albany Law Review, 76(3): 1713-1750.

Alissa Pollitz Worden, Andrew L. B. Davies, and Elizabeth K. Brown. 2011. “A Patchwork of Policies: Justice, Due Process, and Public Defense Across American States.” Albany Law Review 74(3): 1423.

Alissa Pollitz Worden and Andrew L. B. Davies. 2009. “Protecting Due Process Policies in a Punitive Era: An Analysis of Changes in Providing Counsel to the Poor.” Studies in Law, Politics, and Society: Special Issue - New Perspectives on Crime and Criminal Justice. Volume 47: 71-114.

Andrew L.B. Davies and Alissa Pollitz Worden. 2009. “State Politics and the Right to Counsel: A Comparative Analysis.” Law & Society Review 43(1).

Andrew L.B. Davies and Alissa Pollitz Worden. 2008. “Criminal Justice Policy in the United States: Due Process during the Punitive Turn.” In I. Morgan and P. Davies, ed., The Federal Nations of North America: Perspectives on American Federalism. New York: Palgrave - MacMillan.