The Nutter Administration wants to hire one law firm to handle cases that ethics bar public defenders from taking. They’re often referred to as “conflict counsel” cases.
Philadelphia City Council wants a say in that matter.
The first time around, the Nutter administration tried to award a one year contract for “conflict counsel” to a law firm but failed on a technicality. Making it a one-year deal usually means the mayor can award the contract without seeking city council’s approval. So Councilman Dennis O’Brien has put together a proposed change to the City Charter that would require council vote on any such contract.
“I do strongly believe that any contract dealing with an individual’s constitutional rights is important enough to require council approval,” O’Brien said. “I understand amending the Home Rule Charter is not an action to be taken likely, but these contracts are of such importance than an exception to the charter is not only required but it is in the best interest of the city.”
Michael Resnick, the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety says involving council will make the contract more expensive.
“It does not matter whether this perception is true or not the perception will be real, the fear of political interference will be real and the decrease in competition and the increase in price will be real,” Resnick said.
Pennsylvania is one of only two states that doesn’t provide either funding or oversight for indigent defense.