Part of the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Smart Suite of criminal justice programs, the Smart Defense Initiative combines the expertise of researchers and practitioners in building evidence-based, data-driven strategies to improve indigent defense delivery systems for maximum, sustained, and measurable impact.

April 2017

In this issue:
  • This Month's Highlights from the Smart Defense the Sites. Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy compares survey results to case data collected through web-based reporting. Wisconsin State Public Defender expands attorney performance reporting capability. Center for Court Innovation completes a needs assessment of New York City's assigned counsel plan.
  • Countdown to the 2017 Smart Defense Inter-Site Summit. Smart Defense's first class prepares to present results to DOJ at their annual meeting.
  • Upcoming Events. Save the dates for this year's Smart Defense Inter-site Summit, Smart Suite Fellows Academy, and site visits.
  • New Staff Member to Link Defenders to Federal Funding Opportunities. A new member of the TTA team will help defenders find federal support for action research projects.


As part of their grant requirements, each of the six Smart Defense teams is expected to send several team members to attend an annual Inter-Site Summit developed by NLADA and NCJA in conjunction with BJA. The Summit is an opportunity for teams to learn about one another's projects, ask questions, share challenges, and strategize about ways to continue their projects after their initial BJA grant funding ends.
This year's Summit is slated to be held in Washington, DC May 15-16 at the headquarters of the Office of Justice Programs. OJP is home to a number of agencies - including the Bureau of Justice Assistance, National Institute of Justice, and Bureau of Justice Statistics - that are at the forefront of empirical research about what works in public defense. Officials from these offices, as well as the Office for Access to Justice , have been invited to the Summit to learn about the promising practices emerging from the Smart Defense Initiative.

The Summit gives Smart Defense researcher-practitioner team members a chance to share results of their hard work and be reminded that their efforts are beacons, paving the way for intelligent, data-driven improvements to indigent defense systems across the nation.


Supervising and supporting contract attorneys handling conflict of interest cases.

Program Agency:    Commonwealth of Kentucky  Department of Public Advocacy (DPA) 
Research Partner:    Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Louisville

Status: Analysis of pre-training surveys completed; reviewing data from web-based reporting system; planning next training. 

The University of Louisville has completed its analysis of a self-assessment survey sent to all of DPA's contract attorneys in their target region, as well as its analysis of a pre-training survey administered to attorneys who attended the first annual training in May 2016.  The university researchers are currently completing an analysis of the post-training survey.  The Smart Defense project's supervising attorney is able to compare the results of these analyses to the actual performance indicators being collected through the court's CMS and attorney web-based reporting.  For example, for the first time, the data is allowing DPA to look at actual hours spent by contract attorneys on various types of cases, which had previously been unknown due to the flat-fee structure of the DPA contract system.  DPA has been able to identify areas where its contract attorneys are demonstrating proficiencies as well as areas that could be strengthened.

A screenshot of fields in DPA's web-based reporting system is below:

DPA's second annual conflict attorney training is scheduled for May 31st and June 1st.  Using the data being collected and the results of the University of Louisville analyses, DPA has been able to identify key topics for its second training.  Topics so identified include training in the use of investigators and in pre-trial motion practice.  DPA is also preparing a list of investigators in the state who are willing to take appointments in indigent client cases to facilitate their use by contract counsel.  Researchers will also be administering pre- and post- training surveys for the upcoming training and plan to do longer term follow-up surveys.


Emily Flanagan is the new Senior Program Associate with NLADA's Defender Legal Services Division whose work includes identifying federal funding opportunities for indigent defense programs and building tools to increase accessibility to federal grants for defender program leaders. Throughout 2017 her focus will be on developing step-by-step guides for grant applications, templates to develop project narratives, and FAQs to help streamline the federal grants process for public defense applicants. She will attend the May Smart Defense Inter-Site Summit to share suggestions for funding to continue Smart Defense Projects. For example: 

Byrne JAG
Through State Administering Agencies (SAAs), this program funds projects that support their state criminal justice system's strategic plan. These strategic plans are expressly required to consider indigent defense needs. Competitive applications include projects that will improve state or local initiatives related to court programs, planning, evaluation, or technology improvement programs. Accepted project strategies are flexible, including technical assistance, training, personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and information systems for criminal justice but should result in recommendations for scaling or replication and help to generate data or research related to best practices. Read more at

Sixth Amendment Training and Technical Assistance 
BJA has recently issued a solicitation seeking providers who will deliver strategic planning services and right to counsel training and technical assistance (TTA) to jurisdictions beginning in October 2017. The selected TTA providers will offer services to jurisdictions through a competitive application process. Read more at 

Emily has more than ten years of experience building programmatic capacity within the private and nonprofit sectors. Previously, she served with the U.S. Peace Corps in Bangladesh and as a Citizen Action AmeriCorps Volunteer. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology and Human Studies from St. Mary's College of Maryland and a graduate degree in International Relations from Harvard University.


Integrating court data with public defender system data for more robust analytic capacity.

Program Agency:  Wisconsin State Public Defender (SPD) 
Research Partner:  University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute (PHI)

Status: Adding reports to track attorney performance; court data back to January 2011 now integrated with SPD data; testing conflict attorney billing website.
Wisconsin has added several new analytic reports to its Reporting, Analysis and Mining Project (RAMP) portfolio. One report allows OPD to track the average number of hours attorneys spend on different case types.  This report will allow managers to compare work performed by OPD staff attorneys with work performed by conflict counsel. Also, the report, along with other data from the RAMP system, will be used by managers in annual staff attorney evaluations.  A second new report will enable OPD to track the number of withdrawals by counsel and to see how often withdrawal is triggered by a client request for new counsel.  And a third report allows OPD to review attorney trial history, showing the number of bench trials and jury trials, by case type, and what the dispositions were.
OPD reports that it has integrated data from CCAP, the Wisconsin court system CMS into RAMP.  With both logistical and technical issues having been overcome, this nine month effort has successfully imported historical data back to January 11, 2011.  Regular downloads of CCAP data, integrated with SPD data, provides a wealth of up-to-date information for SPD to mine.  For example, one of the grant-funded programmers is working on coding a report that will allow staff attorneys to see the historical outcomes for a given type of case, in a given county, for a given judge.
The RAMP team continues to test and improve their conflict attorney billing website.  They are exploring how to facilitate the upload of files from Quickbooks and other billing systems used by private conflict attorneys, and assessing whether such an effort should be prioritized within the limited life of the grant or whether a template or hybrid system would be best.  RAMP will seek input on the various options from conflict attorneys with emphasis on attorneys from the northern region, where attorneys typically are not in large law firms and have limited support staff.


Smart Defense Inter-site Summit 
May 15-16 in Washington, DC

Smart Suite Fellows Academy, Summer Session
July 25-28  in East Lansing, MI (Tentative)

Smart Defense TTA Team Site Visits
  • Contra Costa County: May 22-24
  • Kentucky - May 31-June 1 (Tentative)
  • Wisconsin - August 24-25
  • Alameda County - Week of October 2
  • New York City - TBD
  • Texas - TBD

New York City, NY

Developing performance indicators for assigned counsel and a data system to track their representation.

Program Agency:  New York City Mayor's Office for Criminal Justice (MOCJ) 
Research Partner: Center for Court Innovation (CCI)

Status: Needs assessment completed.
In March, the Center for Court Innovation completed a major deliverable for New York City's Smart Defense project: a detailed needs assessment of New York City's Assigned Counsel Plan (ACP).  The needs assessment will play a guiding role for the Mayor's Office for Criminal Justice's plans and actions to reform the ACP system, both through the end of the Smart Defense grant period and well beyond.
The assessment relied on two primary data collection methods: intensive document review and stakeholder interviews. The literature review examined the legal structure of the ACP system by synthesizing multiple, disparate sources including: state statutes, Executive Orders from the Mayor's Office, New York City Rules, separate Rules of the First and Second Appellate Departments and a number of Memoranda of Understanding between across all sectors of ACP. One hour, structured interviews were conducted with approximately 40 representatives from all concerned sectors of the ACP.  Interview questions probed: staffing and organizational structures, administration and supervision, regulation and oversight, caseload, attorney practice and areas for improvement. The assessment presents findings and recommendations across 15 areas, including: governance, administration, the ACP attorney panels, technology and the vouchering system. Notably, it presents a single, coherent picture of the ACP governance structure, which had previously been murky to almost all involved with the ACP. 

This project was supported by grant number 2015-AJ-BX-K043 awarded to the National Legal Aid and Defender Association by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, United States Department of Justice.  Points of view or opinions contained within this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs or Department of Justice or the National Legal Aid and Defender Association or the National Criminal Justice Association.