Holland & Knight's Stephen Hanlon is trading his partnership for his passion, leaving the firm after 23 years to teach a practicum on litigation challenges to indigent defense systems.
Hanlon, who has headed the firm's Community Services Team and who received a 2012 "Champions & Visionaries Award" from The National Law Journal, will teach "Structural Challenges to Indigent Defense Systems" at Georgetown University Law Center in the new year. He will work with law firms that undertake this type of institutional reform litigation and will have a special focus on case refusal by overworked public defender organizations.
"This is something I've done a lot of and it's something I really enjoy," said Hanlon. Last July, Hanlon won a 4-3 ruling from the Missouri Supreme Court that overburdened public defenders can not be required to handle cases in violation of their ethical duty to provide zealous and competent advocacy and in violation of defendants' Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Among other sources, the state high court looked to the American Bar Association's Eight Guidelines of Public Defense Related to Excessive Workloads.
"With the ABA guidelines and the Missouri decision, we can say if [public defenders] can do 73 percent of the work competently, they can't do the other 27 percent," said Hanlon. "That's a real powerful remedy. That's what we're trying to do with this practicum."
Hanlon said he and the law school hope to announce some related developments before March 18—the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision on counsel for indigent defendants—Gideon v. Wainwright.
"I think the anniversary will enable us to draw some attention to this," he said, adding, "It's a very serious problem."