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Policy Library

Carrasquillo v. Hampden County [SJC 12777]

October 01, 2019

Citing an on-going crisis in the Commonwealth’s criminal courts, the BBA filed an amicus brief urging the SJC to take decisive action to address a shortage of attorneys available to represent indigent criminal defendants, as is constitutionally required.

The brief traced the long history of underfunding of such defense work, including the so-called Lavallee protocol, instituted by the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) as part of a 2004 case by that name. Lavallee requires the Commonwealth to release from pretrial detention all indigent defendants who do not receive a lawyer within seven days, and the courts to dismiss without prejudice the cases of those indigent defendants who do not receive a lawyer within 45 days. 

The Court agreed that the proper solution to the prospect of a recurring constitutional crisis stemming from lack of available counsel for criminal defendants through CPCS is to increase the statutory hourly rate of pay for private attorneys who take on those cases, but they declined our recommendation that they consider doing so under the SJC’s superintendence authority, instead urging the Legislature to act on the issue.