South Carolina’s public defenders have little, if any, formal state training requirements beyond their legal degree, according to the man whose agency oversees them.
South Carolina Commission of Indigent Defense executive director J. Hugh Ryan recently told a state House subcommittee that what is done is a less-official type of training.
“It’s kind of been an informal process where, for example, when the circuit defender system started, I went to various solicitors and talked to them because it’s the same model,” Ryan said.
Ryan said that a more in-depth course training is being discussed. “We’ve been discussing that very issue. We have various training from the legal skills, but that’s one thing we talked about.”
The Commission of Indigent Defense establishes criteria for determining an accused person’s lack of ability to pay and qualifications for services. It also establishes guidelines for court-appointed attorneys in representing indigent clients, and administers the distribution of funding for indigent defense.
The House Oversight Committee is looking into the commission as part of its rotating review of each South Carolina government agency.
The agency also oversees the payment to court-appointed attorneys for certain legal services performed on behalf of indigent clients in the Family Courts of the state.
The Commission and the Office of Indigent Defense were established by a 1993 state law. The Office of Appellate Defense became a division within the agency two years later.