Access to Justice, 0222 UTBJ, Vol. 35, No. 1. 31

PositionVol. 35 1 Pg. 31

Access to Justice

No. Vol. 35 No. 1 Pg. 31

Utah Bar Journal

February, 2022

January, 2021 by

Debra M. Nelson, Ben Miller, and Wendy M. Brown

Introducing the Statewide Office for Indigent Appeals

Over the last few months, a small staff has come together to begin tackling big ideas. We discuss constitutional rights, individual clients, and our vision of a more fair and just legal system. We are the Indigent Appellate Defense Division. And though we are in our infancy as an office, we want to tell the legal community about the creation of our division and our mission moving forward.

A brief history of indigent appellate defense in Utah

Utah had historically delegated the responsibility of indigent defense services on appeal to its political subdivisions – twenty-nine counties and 247 cities. But more than twenty-five years ago, in response to concerns over the quality of representation in these critically important cases, the Supreme Court Task Force on Appellate Representation of Indigent Defendants recommended creating a “statewide appellate public defender’s office.”

Despite this recommendation, little action was taken in the subsequent years, spurring former Chief Justice Durham to write in 2008 that the issue of indigent appellate representation remained an “area of concern.” As a result, the Judicial Council established a committee to address the concerns surrounding appellate representation. This committee, once again, recommended the creation of a statewide office.

After the ACLU filed a suit over Utah’s “failing” indigent public defense system, the legislature at long last stepped forward to create, first, the Indigent Defense Commission (IDC) in 2016 and then, last year, the Indigent Appellate Defense Division (IADD) within IDC’s Office of Indigent Defense Services.

With the creation of IADD, Utah now has the long-sought-after statewide office dedicated to indigent appellate defense. IADD’s mandate is to oversee all indigent appellate representation in the third through sixth-class counties (all counties except Washington County and the counties along the Wasatch Front), as well as to serve as a resource for all attorneys involved with appellate defense throughout the state.

IADD is dedicated to protecting and defending the rights and dignity of each of our clients through zealous, compassionate, and client-centered advocacy. The goal of the office is to ensure throughout the state the delivery of indigent...

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