The Virginia Lawyers Weekly last week went through some of the things which are going to be required of court appointed attorneys beginning next year.
First we are going to be required to attend at least 6 hours of a criminal defense CLE every two years (I do that about every 4-5 months).
Second, in order to be appointed to cases of a certain level you must have been counsel or co-counsel on 4 cases of the same level. This apparently breaks down to misdemeanors, JDR court matters, felonies, and capital cases. That should prove to be a significant entry barrier. Many people who try to get on lists now are civil attorneys who are dabbling because “our firm believes in giving something back” or new attorneys who are trying to get their feet under them and therefore are putting in some time in the criminal courts. The practice of criminal law will probably consolidate in firms where an established criminal lawyer can mentor a young lawyer for the year or two it might take to get him through four felonies as co-counsel. I cannot wait to see established attorneys at the front of the courtroom with their new associates taking care of driving suspended charges so that the associates can get four co-counsel misdemeanors under their belts.
Third, there is going to be a list kept somewhere of those with the imprimatur of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission. Those on the list can defend the indigent. Others will have to go get rich elsewhere.