Assigned Counsel Now Take On Wider Variety Of Cases
At a hearing scheduled for this week before the habeas court, prosecutors will decide whether to pursue a retrial on the intent to sell within 1,500 feet of public housing charge or to simply let Holloway be freed since he's just finished serving the other eight years of his sentence. "My hope is that he'll walk out a free man," said Kletter.
Kletter said the recent decision in this case should "shine a spotlight" on the assigned counsel program.
"As an associate, I was looking for ways to get what in the litigation world is called first-chair experience, such as taking depositions, examining witnesses at trial, briefing and arguing appeals," said Kletter. "At the same time, the client receives the same legal service as that of a large corporation or private equity fund."
Kletter's legal background includes clerkships for Connecticut Supreme Court Justices Barry R. Schaller and C. Ian McLachlan, as well as Hartford Superior Court Judge Christine E. Keller. Kletter assumes this was why his application to serve as an assigned counsel in appellate cases was accepted.
He has been offered other assignments. "I'm part of a pool of X number of attorneys who are designated to take these appeals on," said Kletter. "I'm of the mindset to do one or two a year. They've told me that's fine. You let them know when you're available to take on a case."
Previously, Kletter would have been referred to as a special public defender. But in 2011, the Public Defender Services Commission and the state's Child Protection department merged. Private lawyers are no longer sought only for criminal work. The merged departments also handle habeas appeals, as well as juvenile delinquency, child protection, guardian ad litem, and family court matters, explained John Day, director of assigned counsel for the state.
In criminal cases, assigned counsel are brought in when a conflict of interest requires that an attorney from outside the Public Defender's Office represent the individual. In Kletter's case, since Holloway was accusing his public defender of ineffective assistance of counsel, there would have been a conflict if someone else from the Public Defender's Office handled the habeas challenge.
Day said there are roughly 450 attorneys contracted with the state to serve as assigned counsel. "Of those 450 overall, about 200 do child protection work," said Day.
Typically, the program seeks applicants beginning in December for cases that run through the following state fiscal year of July to June. Day said some relevant experience is necessary to get a position. "In order to take cases in a certain [legal] area, we have a whole bunch of qualifications we look for," said Day.