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Detailed Information on the
Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia Assessment

Program Code 10001170
Program Title Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia
Department Name District of Columbia
Agency/Bureau Name District of Columbia
Program Type(s) Direct Federal Program
Assessment Year 2003
Assessment Rating Results Not Demonstrated
Assessment Section Scores
Section Score
Program Purpose & Design 100%
Strategic Planning 54%
Program Management 90%
Program Results/Accountability 39%
Program Funding Level
(in millions)
FY2007 $31
FY2008 $33
FY2009 $36

Ongoing Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments
2004

Establish baseline measures for new performance measures during 2005, with completion in 2008.

Action taken, but not completed PDS established two additional baselines for performance measures - through a client survey and a CJA Bar survey. PDS will develop baselines for two additional measures. Access to District of Columbia Courts' data is restricted, so establishing these baseline estimates is still underway.
2005

Investing in technology necessary to improve oversight of program expenditures and activities.

Action taken, but not completed PDS has determined that off-the-shelf software now exists that will meet PDS's case management needs at a lower cost than that of in-house development. PDS will pursue acquiring that software in the fall of 2008.
2005

Establish an employee performance plan that links employee performance to organizational performance.

Action taken, but not completed PDS will complete its evaluation of the pilot employee performance program. PDS will complete testing of the revised version of the Trial Division's lawyer development plan.
2007

Implement new salary scale as part of new employee development/performance program.

Action taken, but not completed PDS's payroll provider has made the technical adjustments necessary for implementing a new salary scale. PDS will transition to the new scale in FY 2008.
2007

Develop website for CJA attorneys to use to obtain CJA investigator assistance.

Action taken, but not completed The website has been designed; construction will begin shortly.
2008

Conduct second triennial judicial survey.

No action taken
2009

Conduct second triennial CJA Bar survey.

No action taken
2007

Update strategic and annual performance plans.

Action taken, but not completed
2010

Conduct second triennial client survey

No action taken

Completed Program Improvement Plans

Year Began Improvement Plan Status Comments
2004

Invest an additional $4 million in 2005 for staff and technology, which will allow PDS program managers to engage in better financial and management oversight of PDS resources.

Completed
2004

Finalize an annual performance plan by March 2004.

Completed
2007

Conduct first triennial client survey.

Completed

Program Performance Measures

Term Type  
Annual Outcome

Measure: Effectiveness of PDS legal representation (trieenial survey of judges and other adjudicators)


Explanation:This measure will track the effectiveness of PDS legal representation using a survey of judges and other adjudicators. Surveys will be conducted on a staggered basis, beginning in 2004 with a survey of the Superior Court trial judges, in 2005 with a survey of Criminal Justice Act attourneys, and in 2006 with a survey of client perspectives.

Year Target Actual
2004 Baseline 95.7%
2005 NA NA
2006 NA NA
2007 N/A NA
2008 97%
2009 N/A N/A
Annual Outcome

Measure: Percentage of cases resulting in pre-trial release


Explanation:The measure will track the percentage of cases resulting in pre-trial release.

Year Target Actual
2004 Establish baseline 70%
2005 73% 63%
2006 76% 62%
2007 79% 71%
2008 75%
2009 79%
Annual Output

Measure: Percentage of clients visited within 2 days after an attorney is appointed


Explanation:This measure will track the percentage of clients visited within 2 days after an attorney is appointed.

Year Target Actual
2004 N/A N/A
2005 N/A N/A
2006 Established baseline 88%
2007 92% 89%
2008 95%
2009 97%

Questions/Answers (Detailed Assessment)

Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design
Number Question Answer Score
1.1

Is the program purpose clear?

Explanation: PDS's mission is to provide and promote quality legal representation to indigent adults and children facing a loss of liberty in the District of Columbia, and thereby protect society's interest in the fair administration of justice.

Evidence: PDS Mission Statement; PDS Enabling Statute, DC Code §§ 2-1601 to 2-1608; PDS Agency Resume; PDS Draft Strategic Plan; Gideon v. Wainwright, 372 US 335 (1963); Bill of Rights: Sixth Amendment

YES 20%
1.2

Does the program address a specific and existing problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: PDS's services meet the clearly defined, existing need for constitutionally mandated criminal defense services for indigent persons in the District of Columbia courts. The Supreme Court's Gideon v. Wainwright decision established the requirement that state/local governments provide counsel to indigent defendants. In addition, the population size of individuals who qualify for those services in DC based on the application of the U.S. Department of Labor's lower level living standards--more than 95% of criminal defendants in the Superior Court--shows no sign of diminishing.

Evidence: Gideon v. Wainwright; Bill of Rights: Sixth Amendment; The Plan for Furnishing Representation to Indigent Defendants; May 18, 2003 Washington Post Article: D.C. Pockets of Poverty Growing; Former Superior Court Chief Judge Moultrie's March 17, 1983 Memorandum Re: Eligibility Standards

YES 20%
1.3

Is the program designed so that it is not redundant or duplicative of any Federal, state, local or private effort?

Explanation: The District of Columbia delivers services to individuals facing criminal or delinquency charges, or who are facing involuntary commitments, using a 'hybrid representation' system. This system includes an institutional defender organization (PDS) and a panel or panels of private attorneys who are eligible to receive court appointments [Criminal Justice Act (CJA) attorneys]. PDS is the only institutional defender organization serving adults and children in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. PDS is designed to develop expertise in the most difficult, complex, and time-consuming cases and is the only institution able to handle these types of cases in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. It is the only organization, public or private, that provides special education advocacy for children in the juvenile delinquency system. It is also the only provider of representation before the U.S. Parole Commission.

Evidence: Federal Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A; D.C. Criminal Justice Act, D.C. Code §§.11-2601 et seq.; The Plan for Furnishing Representation to Indigent Defendants;

YES 20%
1.4

Is the program design free of major flaws that would limit the program's effectiveness or efficiency?

Explanation: The 'hybrid representation' model, whereby an institutional public defender and a group of private attorneys are both appointed to represent indigent clients in the same jurisdiction, is used in Superior Court to provide court-appointed counsel to indigent defendants. This model 1) establishes a full-time defender organization to provide direct representation and to serve as a resource to court-appointed private counsel, and 2) creates panels of private attorneys to handle those cases not assigned to the defender organization. It is efficient and effective because PDS generally is assigned to represent clients charged with the more serious offenses, or clients whose cases require the most resources.

Evidence: Best practices standards adopted by the American Council of Chief Defenders (ACCD), the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA), and the American Bar Association.

YES 20%
1.5

Is the program effectively targeted, so program resources reach intended beneficiaries and/or otherwise address the program's purpose directly?

Explanation: PDS has a staff of eligibility examiners who perform eligibility checks on every person who has been charged with an offense in Superior Court. The results of these examinations are transmitted on a daily basis to the Superior Court electronically and made part of the court record for public inspection. The eligibility exam includes an interview, a sworn statement from the arrestee, and asset verification using ChoicePoint Asset Company's database. False statements made during this process are subject to criminal prosecution. In FY 2002, PDS's Defender Services Office (DSO) performed over 29,000 eligibility exams. PDS uses a 'pick-up' schedule that maximizes the availability of qualified PDS lawyers over a six-week schedule. PDS's DSO prepares the 'lock-up' list each morning for the assigning judicial officer, detailing all the cases, the charges, and the available attorneys. The DSO pre-assigns the most serious juvenile and adult cases to the available PDS attorneys. This list is then transmitted electronically to the appointing judicial officer to complete the remaining appointments from the available panel attorneys and for approval of the recommended assignments.

Evidence: The Plan for Furnishing Representation to Indigent Defendants, Section II. A and B. (2); Eligibility Form; Former Superior Court Chief Judge Moultrie's March 17, 1983 Memorandum Re: Eligibility Standards; Sample Lock-up List, Appointment Material, and Pick-up Schedule; D.C. Code § 1-2702

YES 20%
Section 1 - Program Purpose & Design Score 100%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning
Number Question Answer Score
2.1

Does the program have a limited number of specific long-term performance measures that focus on outcomes and meaningfully reflect the purpose of the program?

Explanation: Prior to PDS's transition from a District funded agency to a Federally-funded independent agency under the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, PDS operated with less than $8 million dollars in funding, 96% of which was for personnel service costs. Consequently, PDS did little in the way of meaningful strategic and long-term planning and is still not required to comply with GPRA requirements. Regardless, PDS has finalized its first GPRA-compliant strategic plan outlining long-term goals and objectives for FY 2004-FY2009.

Evidence: PDS Strategic Plan

YES 18%
2.2

Does the program have ambitious targets and timeframes for its long-term measures?

Explanation: Prior to PDS's transition from a District funded agency to a Federally-funded independent agency under the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, PDS operated with less than $8 million dollars in funding, 96% of which was for personnel service costs. Consequently, PDS did little in the way of meaningful strategic and long-term planning and is still not required to comply with GPRA requirements. As a result, PDS has not yet gathered enough baseline data to have established ambitious targets and timelines for its long-term measures.

Evidence: PDS Strategic Plan; PDS Draft Annual Performance Plan.

NO 0%
2.3

Does the program have a limited number of specific annual performance measures that demonstrate progress toward achieving the program's long-term measures?

Explanation: The agency is currently reassessing its reporting tools and data sets to determine how they may be modified to capture, analyze, and report on the new forms of performance measure the strategic plan envisions. At this time, however, PDS does not have a limited number of specific annual goals.

Evidence: PDS Draft Annual Performance Plan.

NO 0%
2.4

Does the program have baselines and ambitious targets and timeframes for its annual measures?

Explanation: PDS plans to establish its first full year of baseline data and annual targets for out-years during the upcoming FY 2004, FY 2005, and FY 2006 budget years. The context of PDS's very recent planning process and the fact that this status of baseline and initial year's target data is the norm for any organization undertaking its first-ever performance planning and assessment initiative lead to a reasonable assertion that PDS is on target in its implementation of these requirements.

Evidence: PDS Strategic Plan; PDS Draft Annual Performance Plan.

NO 0%
2.5

Do all partners (including grantees, sub-grantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, etc.) commit to and work toward the annual and/or long-term goals of the program?

Explanation: This question is not applicable to PDS as it has no partners in delivering its program activities. PDS has a distinct mission and serves a distinct and exclusive population; PDS does so independently and unassisted in its core program activities. PDS does not contract with private entities to carry out any major program activities. PDS does not have grant authority to sub-grant funds to conduct its activities. The mission and the population that PDS serves are both exclusive of other government agencies that serve defendants' interests.

Evidence: PDS Enabling Statute, Federal Criminal Justice Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3006A; D.C. Criminal Justice Act, D.C. Code §§ 11-2601 et seq.; Plan for Furnishing Representation to Indigent Defendants

NA 0%
2.6

Are independent and quality evaluations of sufficient scope and quality conducted on a regular basis or as needed to support program improvements and evaluate effectiveness and relevance to the problem, interest, or need?

Explanation: No formal independent evaluation of PDS's program has been conducted. Such an evaluation has been neither appropriate nor necessary given PDS's relatively small budget ($23.1 million for FY 2003) and PDS's smaller scale impact. In addition, PDS frequently receives informal evaluations of its work (see response to Question 4.4) that are consistent with PDS's reputation as a provider of excellent legal representation. Going forward, however, PDS's strategic plan contemplates scheduling an evaluation through the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA) in FY 2005.

Evidence: PDS Strategic Plan; NLADA's Website Pages and NLADA's Evaluation of a Public Defender Office: Clark County, Nevada, March 2003.

YES 18%
2.7

Are Budget requests explicitly tied to accomplishment of the annual and long-term performance goals, and are the resource needs presented in a complete and transparent manner in the program's budget?

Explanation: Prior to PDS's transition from a District funded agency to a Federally-funded independent agency under the National Capital Revitalization and Self-Government Improvement Act of 1997, the agency operated with less than $8 million dollars in funding, 96% of which was for personnel service costs. Consequently, PDS did little in the way of meaningful strategic long-term planning or budget-performance integration. Furthermore, PDS has never been required to have an annual budget submission that complies with GPRA requirements. PDS is now working toward presenting a fully integrated performance-based budget in FY 2006.

Evidence:  

NO 0%
2.8

Has the program taken meaningful steps to correct its strategic planning deficiencies?

Explanation: The principal deficiency PDS needed to address was the lack of any formal strategic plan with associated goals, targets, and performance measures. Both the GPRA and PART exercises have provided the form and structure necessary to take truly meaningful steps to correct this deficiency.

Evidence: PDS Strategic Plan; PDS Draft Annual Performance Plan.

YES 18%
Section 2 - Strategic Planning Score 54%
Section 3 - Program Management
Number Question Answer Score
3.1

Does the agency regularly collect timely and credible performance information, including information from key program partners, and use it to manage the program and improve performance?

Explanation: On a monthly basis, PDS Division Chiefs provide information, including statistical data and trends analysis, to executive staff about Division activities. PDS's executive staff uses this information to make staffing, resource allocation, and policy decisions that are communicated to the Division Chiefs for the purpose of improving program performance and effectiveness. The Divisions' activities are then monitored to ensure that outcome.

Evidence: Monthly Division and Statistical Reporting format

YES 15%
3.2

Are Federal managers and program partners (grantees, subgrantees, contractors, cost-sharing partners, etc.) held accountable for cost, schedule and performance results?

Explanation: All of PDS's senior management (i.e., Division Chiefs, Special Counsels, the General Counsel), except the Deputy Director, serves at the will of the Director. The Trial Division has a significant number of mid-level supervisors, all of whom are appointed for a specific term of one or two years. Upon the completion of the term, the position is re-opened for applications. The Director typically requires that the applicants produce a recent sample of original research and writing demonstrating innovative litigation, and list as references two attorneys whom they have supervised in the past year. The Director also solicits confidential comments on the applicants from every staff member. The General Counsel and the Deputy Director forward recommendations to the Director after interviewing all the applicants. The Director then interviews a smaller group of candidates and makes the final selection. Supervisors are selected based on their application materials, their previous legal performance, their supervisory performance, their performance during the interviews, and feedback from references and staff.

Evidence: Sample Supervisor Job Announcements and Solicitation of Staff Comment.

YES 15%
3.3

Are all funds (Federal and partners') obligated in a timely manner and spent for the intended purpose?

Explanation: PDS obligates all goods and services for the current year no later than September 30 of the current year within the quarterly apportionment guidance delivered by OMB. At the end of the year, a minimal portion of appropriated funds remains unobligated. PDS also actively compares actual expenditures against intended use by linking PDS's FY 2003 Enacted Budget and PDS's FY 2003 Operating Budget Plan, and by comparing the estimated year-to-date apportionment to the PDS summary status of funds.

Evidence: The most current reconciliation for FY 2002 reflects that the actual year-end balance of unexpended funds totaled approximately $149,000, or .07% of PDS's total appropriation of $20,829,000 for FY 2002.

YES 15%
3.4

Does the program have procedures (e.g., competitive sourcing/cost comparisons, IT improvements, approporaite incentives) to measure and achieve efficiencies and cost effectiveness in program execution?

Explanation: PDS's mission and long-term outcome goals (provide quality representation to all indigent defendants in the District of Columbia) rely largely on the intellectual product and work ethic of its attorneys. These components are difficult to capture and quantify in an efficiency measure. PDS will continue to work on this as they move forward with implementation of their strategic and annual plans.

Evidence:  

NO 0%
3.5

Does the program collaborate and coordinate effectively with related programs?

Explanation: PDS collaborates with a wide variety of institutions within the criminal justice community and the mental health system, as well as with faith-based and community organizations. PDS collaborates both as a member of larger organizations (for example the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and the D.C. Sentencing Commission) and on smaller, more informal levels. PDS also coordinates effectively with related programs by referring clients, their family members, and the public to other organizations and agencies when issues are identified that PDS does not handle. PDS provides this service through its Duty Day program and the resource materials generated for that program.

Evidence: The Plan for Furnishing Representation to Indigent Defendants, Section II. A (2) and B; April 2001 OPTIONS Memoranda Of Understanding; CJA Investigator Certification Program Memorandum Of Understanding; Pro Bono Program Memorandum Of Understanding; D.C. Superior Court Administrative Order 02-33; December 2, 2002 Report of the Superior Court Criminal Justice Act Continuing Legal Education Committee; Participation with dozens of committees and informal working groups with partners such as the D.C. Superior Court, the D.C. Department of Mental Health, and the Pretrial Services Agency.

YES 15%
3.6

Does the program use strong financial management practices?

Explanation: Independent financial audits for FY 1999 and FY 2000 found that PDS's "financial statements presented fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of PDS, and the results of its operations and the cash flows for the years then ended in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles." Independent financial audits for FY 2001 and FY 2002 are currently underway. Since the passage of the Revitalization Act, PDS has taken significant steps to enhance the design and operation of internal controls over financial reporting to ensure PDS's ability to record, process, summarize, and report financial data. PDS has used recommendations provided by auditors to ensure PDS's financial management structure is in full compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements governing PDS's financial management practices, procedures, reporting, and internal controls.

Evidence: June 4, 2003 Memorandum Re: Statement of PDS Financial Management Practices; FY 2001/2002 Audits Engagement Purchase Order and Related Materials.

YES 15%
3.7

Has the program taken meaningful steps to address its management deficiencies?

Explanation: For years prior to the passage of the 1997 Revitalization Act, PDS operated with only a Director, a Deputy Director, and an Executive Assistant responsible for the entire administrative function. In recognition of this deficiency, PDS sought and obtained funding for basic management and administrative support. This has enabled PDS to establish a human resources office, competent and professional budget and finance staff, and a core information technology unit that supports PDS's technological infrastructure. PDS has also examined its management structure and addressed weaknesses created by its past practice of relying on centralized management. For example, PDS has created Unit/Division Chief positions where incumbents are held responsible for the operation and effectiveness of their Divisions. These managers provide monthly reports that are used by executive management to track progress, examine trends, and spot and address deficiencies that may exist in the program areas.

Evidence: PDS Organizational Chart; Sample Monthly Division and Statistical Reporting Format.

YES 15%
Section 3 - Program Management Score 90%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability
Number Question Answer Score
4.1

Has the program demonstrated adequate progress in achieving its long-term outcome performance goals?

Explanation: PDS and OMB recently agreed on a final strategic plan for FY 2004-FY 2009, which includes long-term performance goals. Measurement of these goals should become possible in FY 2006 and beyond.

Evidence:  

NO 0%
4.2

Does the program (including program partners) achieve its annual performance goals?

Explanation: PDS does not now have the type of annual performance goals envisioned by GPRA, but is currently in the process of establishing them through the drafting of its annual performance plan.

Evidence:  

NO 0%
4.3

Does the program demonstrate improved efficiencies or cost effectiveness in achieving program performance goals each year?

Explanation: PDS has demonstrated high levels of efficiency through innovative use of technology. Over the past year, PDS has developed and launched the first few of several program modules in its state of the art case management and tracking system, Atticus. This system provides desktop access to real-time case activity and status information in the form of a running case resume and calendar. Significant efficiencies are gained through this system, including: the increased accountability of individual program staff on a case-by-case basis through program management's ability to track cases and to provide direction; and increased ability of the individual program staff member to follow the current status of a case and to implement next required tasks toward achieving timely and effective client representation. PDS has also achieved significant efficiency gains in its Investigations Division through the widespread dissemination and use of cell phones by investigators in the field as well as by providing access to a variety of online databases providing real-time information.

Evidence: Sample pages from Atticus Training Manual

SMALL EXTENT 9%
4.4

Does the performance of this program compare favorably to other programs, including government, private, etc., that have similar purpose and goals?

Explanation: PDS's status as one of the best public defender organizations in the country is well known in the legal community. The Legal Aid Society for DC awarded PDS the 2003 Servant of Justice award for "faithful dedication and remarkable achievement in ensuring that all persons have equal and meaningful access to justice in the District of Columbia." PDS is the first institution to receive this prestigious award. Past honorees include: Justice Thurgood Marshall, Janet Reno, Peter Edelman, and Charles Ruff. PDS staff are also in demand to act as speakers/trainers for academic institutions, federal law enforcement agencies, state and federal defender organizations, and private organizations. PDS's reputation is also recognized internationally, and the Department of State's International Visitor Program routinely arranges for delegations from countries reforming their criminal justice systems (Chile, Kosovo, Canada, and China) to meet with and receive presentations from PDS staff. PDS recently received funding for a DNA initiative and in a short period of time has become a national leader in the defense community in addressing the admissibility of new DNA technologies and challenges to this evidence at trial.

Evidence: Legal Aid Society Award; Recent requests for staff to act as speakers/trainers have come from: Federal Judicial Center; Harvard Law School's Trial Advocacy Program; Superior Court for the District of Columbia Judicial Conference; National Legal Aid and Defender Association; Georgetown Law School, Criminal Justice Clinic; University of Virginia School of Law; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; Defender Service Division for the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts; Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania; New Mexico Public Defender; Illinois Office of the Appellate Defender; George Washington School of Law; Howard University School of Law; American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children; District of Columbia Bar; National Association of Sentencing Advocates; The Sentencing Project; American University School of Law; University of Maryland, School of Social Work; California Public Defenders Association; George Washington University, School of Medicine; and National Institute of Trial Advocacy. Transcript Excerpts; Supreme Court Order of Appointment, and Order Granting Certiorari.

YES 30%
4.5

Do independent and quality evaluations of this program indicate that the program is effective and achieving results?

Explanation: No formal independent evaluation of PDS's program has been conducted. Such an evaluation has been neither appropriate nor necessary given PDS's relatively small budget ($23.1 million for FY 2003), PDS's smaller scale impact, and the frequent positive assessments of PDS performance through informal evaluations of its work.

Evidence: Legal Aid Society Award; Brennan Center for Justice's Evaluation of PDS's Community Defender Program; District of Columbia Court of Appeals Rule 49 (c) (9) (B);

NA 0%
Section 4 - Program Results/Accountability Score 39%


Last updated: 09062008.2003SPR