Senator Ellis Press Release

For Immediate Release
February 24, 2010
Contact: Tina Tran, (512) 463-0113

Senator Ellis Sponsors Texas Indigent Defense Summit

(Austin, TX) — State Senator Rodney Ellis, along with The Constitution Project, National Association of Criminal Defense lawyers, and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, convened stakeholders and state and national policy experts for a one day summit to discuss the progress and challenges Texas faces in adhering to the Constitution's Sixth Amendment right to counsel.

Over 200 attendees traveled from all over the state to participate in the one day summit at the Texas Capitol. Panels covered topics such as a review of the Texas Fair Defense Act, cost-effective delivery systems, improving standards, and misdemeanor representation. Panelists included nationally recognized experts Bob Spangenberg, director of The Spangenberg Project at the Center for Justice, Law and Society at George Mason University, and Tony Fabelo, director of research at the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

"It is encouraging to see that so many people from all over Texas care about providing quality legal counsel in our state courts," said Sen. Ellis. "We all agree that 'liberty and justice for all' Texans cannot be achieved without upholding the Constitution's Sixth Amendment right to counsel."

In 2001, Senator Ellis authored landmark, bipartisan legislation to overhaul Texas' indigent criminal defense system. The Texas Fair Defense Act ensures prompt appointment of an attorney for indigent criminal defendants, provides guidelines on methods of appointment for counsel, establishes minimum standards for appointed attorneys, and provides both state resources and oversight of counties' indigent defense systems. Thanks to legislation championed by Sen. Ellis over the years, state funding for indigent defense has gone from $0 in 2001 to over $30 million in 2009.

Sen. Ellis also received the Champion of Justice Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The award honors those individuals who have staunchly preserved or defended the constitutional rights of American citizens and have endeavored to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime. Other legislators to receive the award in the past include U.S. Reps. John Conyers, Bobby Scott, and Barney Frank. Former Texas state Rep. Maury Maverick, Jr. received the award in 1996.

* Full agenda available upon request.