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In rural counties, Texas law puts low-income defendants at a disadvantage

A two-tiered system gives less populated counties more time to provide court-appointed lawyers, requiring creative responses to a long-standing problem.

Chief Public Defender of the Concho Valley Public Defender's Office Joe Stephens looks out at the Tom Green County Courthouse in San Angelo on March 12, 2023.

181 different ways to appoint lawyers 

The entrance to the Tom Green County Detention Facility in San Angelo on March 12, 2023.

“A pretty horrifying prospect”

One-quarter of rural defense lawyers have left 

West Texans leave a showing of “Menopause the Musical” held in the Murphey Performance Hall at the San Angelo City Hall on March 12, 2023 in San Angelo.

Raising the bar in legal deserts


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Courts Criminal justice Politics Texas Legislature