Senator Seliger Files Bill to Provide Better Representation to Indigent Defendants
AUSTIN, Texas--State Senator Kel Seliger has filed Senate Bill 528 (SB 528) to create a specialized listing of qualifications for appellate attorneys representing indigent defendants in capital cases. The goal of the legislation is to increase the number of lawyers who are eligible to represent defendants upon appeal by recognizing the different skill sets needed for trial and appellate attorneys. "I believe the passage of this legislation will allow indigent defendants who face capital charges access to better representation," says Seliger.
In addition, SB 528 would allow for the review of attorneys who are no longer eligible to represent indigent defendants in capital cases due to a single finding of ineffectiveness that was case-specific and not indicative of future representation. The review would be conducted by the regional selection committees that currently maintain listings of eligible attorneys. The committees, comprised of an administrative law judge, a district judge, a representative from the local bar association, and a board certified criminal attorney, would be able to reinstate an accomplished, experienced attorney who might have otherwise been prevented from serving in this capacity.
Senate Bill 528 is the product of a legislative workgroup formed by the Texas Task Force on Indigent Defense. The group consisted of district and county judges, county representatives, court personnel, defense attorneys and prosecutors, the Standing Committee on Legal Services to the Poor in Criminal Matters, and legislative and Governor's staff. Furthermore, the Honorable Wallace B. Jefferson, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, signed a resolution as Chairman of the Texas Judicial Council supporting this legislation.
"Input received from all areas of capital case prosecution, defense and appeals will ensure that this system is more efficient and better protects the rights of all Texans," says Seliger.
Seliger was sworn in to the Texas Senate to serve the citizens of Senate District 31 on March 2, 2004 to complete the term of former Senator Teel Bivins of Amarillo. He was reelected to serve a full, four-year term on November 4, 2004. The district spans 26 counties from the Panhandle to the Permian Basin and includes Amarillo, Midland, Odessa and Big Spring.