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How judicial conflicts of interest are denying poor Texans their right to an effective lawyer

For decades, Texans who can’t afford a lawyer have gotten caught in a criminal justice system that’s crippled by inadequate funding and overloaded attorneys. A growing body of caseload data — and a recent lawsuit — point to an even more fundamental hazard: the unchecked power of Texas judges.

Lead image for this article

I.

Marvin Wilford, photographed at his home in Austin on July 3, 2019.
Scene from bond review docket in the Travis County courthouse in July.

II.

A replica of the state seal, in the courtroom of Austin judge Karen Sage.
Lawyer Drew Willey, photographed on July 2, 2019 in the holding cell for defendants on Galveston County's jail docket.

III.

Boxes of case files at the Harris County public defender's office in Houston.

IV.

Kimberly Clark-Washington, a mental health clinician, working at the Harris County public defender's office in Houston.

V.

Boxes of case files at the Harris County public defender's office in Houston.

VI.

View of the capitol from the Blackwell-Thurman Criminal Justice Center in downtown Austin/Travis County on July 3, 2019. The…

VII.


A lawyer responds: Bill Ray explains his workload in Tarrant County

Want a public defender? Take it up with the judge

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