Welcome to Office of the Federal Public Defender - Eastern District of Texas
The United States Supreme Court established an indigent defendant's right to legal counsel in Federal Courts in 1938. Johnson v. Zerbst, 304 U.S. 458 (1938). To satisfy the requirement, federal District Judges appointed lawyers for indigent defendants, without pay or even reimbursement for expenses. The appointed lawyers were often inexperienced in criminal law. The Criminal Justice Act of 1964 (CJA) was enacted to provide payment for appointed lawyers and to create a core of full-time Federal Public Defenders, with skills equal to those of federal prosecutors. In response to the Criminal Justice Act, the federal judiciary created the Federal Defender Services program. Approximately 85 percent of all criminal cases prosecuted in federal courts require appointed legal counsel. The Defender Services Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States Footnote provides overall policy direction and guidance of the program, and the Defender Services Division provides administrative and program support.