HBA-JEK S.B. 1781 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisS.B. 1781 By: Bivins County Affairs 5/3/2001 Engrossed BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Current law requires a court to appoint one or more practicing attorneys to defend any indigent person charged with a felony or misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment. The creation of a public defender's office could result in better representation for indigent individuals at less expense to the taxpayers. Senate Bill 1781 authorizes the commissioners court of Potter County to establish a public defender program and to appoint an attorney to serve as public defender for indigent persons. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state officer, department, agency, or institution. ANALYSIS Senate Bill 1781 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to authorize the commissioners court of Potter County to appoint an attorney to serve as public defender. The bill requires a public defender to represent each indigent person who is charged with a criminal offense in Potter County or is subject to proceedings involving delinquent conduct or conduct indicating a need for supervision in the county. The bill authorizes the commissioners court to specify other types of cases in which the public defender is authorized to represent indigent persons, and authorizes the commissioners court to accept gifts and grants from any source to finance an adequate and effective public defender program. S.B. 1781 authorizes the public defender to investigate the financial condition of any person he or she is appointed to represent and requires the public defender to report the investigation results to the appointing judge. The bill authorizes the judge to hold a hearing to determine if the person is indigent and entitled to representation. If at any stage of the proceeding the judge determines that a conflict of interest exists between the public defender and the indigent person, the bill authorizes the judge to appoint another attorney to represent the person. The bill provides that such an attorney must be licensed to practice law in this state and is entitled to compensation. S.B. 1781 sets forth eligibility requirements for appointment as a public defender and authorizes a public defender to employ assistant public defenders, investigators, secretaries, and other necessary personnel with the approval of the commissioners court. The bill provides that an assistant public defender must be an attorney, and authorizes an assistant public defender to perform the duties of a public defender. The bill prohibits a public defender or an assistant public defender from engaging in the private practice of law. Provisions regarding the compensation of personnel and the payment of office expenses apply to the public defender's office. EFFECTIVE DATE On passage, or if the Act does not receive the necessary vote, the Act takes effect September 1, 2001.