Hill District Court and County Court Plan
Preamble
10/28/2019
To implement the Texas Fair Defense Act, the following Local Rules of Administration are adopted under Texas Government Code §74.093, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 26.04 et. seq., and Texas Family Code §51.102.  These rules shall be effective November 1, 2015, subject to the approval of the Presiding Judge of the Third Administrative Judicial Region.  All prior indigent defense plans adopted are superseded by these rules 
Prompt Magistration
10/28/2019

Prompt Appearance Before a Magistrate. The law enforcement officer making the arrest and any officer who later has custody of an accused person shall ensure that the person is taken before any magistrate (Justice of the Peace) authorized by law without unnecessary delay, but not later than 48 hours after the person was arrested. The magistrate (Justice of the Peace)  before whom the arrested person is brought shall administer the required magistrate's warnings, set bail, if appropriate, and provide the person with an application for court appointed attorney and assistance in completing the application, if appointment of counsel is requested by the individual arrested.


Transmittal of Request for Appointed Counsel.  Any magistrate (Justice of the Peace) who administers magistrate’s warnings to an arrested individual shall make a written note on any request for appointment of counsel of the date and time the request was made.  Pursuant to §15.17, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the magistrate (Justice of the Peace) shall, as soon as possible, without unnecessary delay, but not later than 24 hours after the person arrested requests appointment of counsel, transmit or cause to be transmitted to the Hill County District Court, as authorized under §26.04, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the forms requesting appointment of counsel for defendants charged with a Class A or B misdemeanor or any felony other than a capital felony.  If the arrested individual is charged with a capital felony, the request and any documentation shall be delivered within twenty-four (24) hours to the Local Administrative District Judge, who shall determine indigency and appoint counsel within three (3) working days after the request is received.

I.      Conduct Prompt and Accurate Magistration Proceedings

A.    Arresting Officer Responsibilities

                                i.            The arresting officer, or the person having custody of the arrestee, shall ensure that every arrestee shall be brought before a magistrate without unnecessary delay, but not later than 48 hours after the person is arrested. 

                              ii.            Unless arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant, bench warrant, capias, or other order of a magistrate or judge, necessary forms establishing probable cause must be completed and filed at the time an arrestee is booked into jail for any felony or misdemeanor punishable by incarceration.

                            iii.             Release of defendants arrested without warrant

1.      A person arrested for a misdemeanor without a warrant and who is detained in jail must be released not later than the 24th hour after arrest, on a bond in an amount not to exceed $5,000, if a magistrate has not determined that probable cause exists to believe that the person committed the offense. 

2.      A person arrested for a felony without a warrant and who is detained in jail must be released not later than the 48th hour after arrest, on a bond in an amount not to exceed $10,000, if a magistrate has not determined that probable cause exists to believe that the person committed the offense. 

3.      If requested by the state, a magistrate may postpone the release of the defendant for not more than 72 hours after the defendant's arrest if a probable cause determination has not been made, in compliance with the procedure set forth in Article 17.033, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

B.     Magistrate Duties

                                i.            At the Magistrate’s hearing, the magistrate should determine if accused can speak and understand English, or if the defendant is deaf.

                              ii.            After making such determination, the magistrate shall, in an appropriate manner consistent with Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Articles 38.30 and 38.31, do the following:

1.      Advise the accused of the accusation against him/her and any affidavit filed therewith;

2.      Admonish the accused of:

a.       The right to retain counsel;

b.      The right to remain silent;

c.       The right to have an attorney present during any interview with peace officers or attorneys representing the state;

d.      The right to terminate an interview at any time;

e.       The right not to make a statement and that any statement made by the accused may be used against him/her; and

f.       The right to an examining trial.

3.      Inform the accused of the right to appointed counsel if the person cannot afford counsel and the procedures for requesting appointment of counsel.

4.      Inquire as to whether accused is requesting that counsel be appointed.

5.      Provide accused persons requesting appointed counsel with necessary forms for requesting appointment of counsel and ensure that reasonable assistance in completing required forms is provided to the accused at the time of the magistrate’s hearing.

6.      If the magistrate has reason to believe the accused is not mentally competent, the magistrate shall enter a request for counsel on behalf of the accused. Such a request will alert the appointing authority that counsel competent to represent mentally ill persons should be appointed.

                            iii.            In cases where the individual was arrested without an arrest warrant, bench warrant, capias, or other order of magistrate or judge, the magistrate shall determine if there is probable cause to believe the person committed the offense.

1.      If probable cause has not been determined by a magistrate:

a.       A person arrested for a misdemeanor must be released on bond in an amount not to exceed $5,000, not later than 24 hours after the person's arrest.

b.      A person arrested for a felony must be released on bond in an amount not to exceed $10,000, not later than 48 hours after the person’s arrest.

c.       If requested by the state, the magistrate may postpone the release of the defendant for not more than 72 hours after the defendant's arrest in compliance with the procedure set forth in Article 17.033, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

                            iv.            The magistrate shall set the amount of bail and any conditions of bond for the accused, if bail is allowed by law and has not been set by the court or magistrate issuing a warrant.

                              v.            The magistrate shall record the following:

1.      The date and time the accused was arrested and the date and time when he/she was brought before the magistrate.

2.      Whether the magistrate informed the accused of the right to request appointment of counsel and asked the accused whether he/she wants to request counsel.

3.      Whether the accused requested appointment of counsel

                            vi.            If the magistrate is not authorized to appoint counsel and if the accused requests appointment of counsel, the magistrate shall transmit or cause to be transmitted the magistrate form and any other forms requesting appointment of counsel to the Indigent Defense Coordinator. The forms requesting appointment of counsel shall be transmitted without unnecessary delay, but not later than 24 hours after the person arrested requests appointment of counsel.

                          vii.            If the magistrate is authorized to appoint counsel, the magistrate shall make a determination of indigence and appoint counsel if the defendant is indigent within three working days unless the County has a U.S. Census population over 250,000 in which case counsel shall be appointed within one working day.

                        viii.            If a request for counsel was made at magistration, the appointing authority shall forward the magistrate form and any other forms requesting appointment of counsel to the appropriate clerk to be put into the case file.

                            ix.            If a request for counsel was not made at magistration, the magistrate will forward the magistrate form to the clerk to be put into the case file.

                              x.            For persons arrested on out-of-county warrants, the magistrate will ask the defendant if he/she would like to request appointed counsel. The magistrate will record the response, and if counsel is requested, the magistrate will provide the arrestee with the appropriate forms for requesting counsel. The magistrate will ensure assistance in completing the forms at the same time. The forms will be transmitted to the appointing authority in the county issuing the warrant within 24 hours of the request being made.

Indigence Determination Standards
10/28/2019
Determination of Indigency


(a). “Indigent” means a person who is not financially able to employ counsel using the financial standards established in these rules.

(b). “Net household income” means all income of the defendant and spousal income actually available to the Defendant.  Such income shall include: take-home wages and salary (gross income earned minus those deductions required by law or as a condition of employment); overtime, severance pay, unemployment benefits, financial aid assistance, disability or workman’s compensation;  net self –employment income (gross income minus business expenses, and those deductions required by law or as a condition of operating the business);  regular payments from a governmental income maintenance program, alimony, child support, public or private pensions or annuities;  and income from dividends, interest, rents, royalties, or periodic receipts from estates or trusts, regular payments from Social Security, veteran’s benefits, food, rent or household expenses received in lieu of wages or as a result of any agreement to share household expenses, income of persons claiming defendant as a tax exemption for federal tax purposes, tax refunds, gifts, one-time insurance payments or compensation for injury.  Seasonal or temporary income shall be considered on an annualized basis averaged together with periods in which the defendant has no income or lesser income.

(c). “Non-exempt assets and property” means cash in the defendant’s possession or control, stocks and bonds, accounts at financial institutions, and equity in real or personal property that can be readily converted to cash, other than assets and property exempt from attachment under state law.

(d). “Household” means all individuals who are actually dependent on the defendant for financial support or upon whom the defendant is dependent for financial support.  

(e). “The cost of obtaining competent private legal representation” includes the reasonable cost of support services such as investigators and expert witnesses as necessary and appropriate given the nature of the case.

2.02 Financial Standards for Determining Indigency.  The following financial standards shall be used to determine whether a defendant is indigent and shall be applied equally to each defendant in the county.

(a). A defendant is considered indigent if:

(1) the defendant’s net household income does not exceed 125% of the Poverty Guidelines as established and revised annually by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and published in the Federal Register;  and

(2) the value of the non-exempt assets and property owned by the defendant:

a. does not exceed $1,500;

b. does not exceed $3,000 in the case of a defendant whose household includes a person who is age 60 or over, disabled, or institutionalized; or

c. is insufficient to pay the cost of retaining competent private legal representation in Hill County for the offense(s) with which the defendant is charged.

(3) A defendant is considered indigent if, at the time of requesting appointed counsel, the defendant or the defendant’s dependents (biological or adopted child under the age of 18) have been determined to be eligible to receive food stamps, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, or public housing. 

(4) A defendant is considered indigent if the defendant is:

a. currently serving a sentence in a correctional institution, residing in a public mental health facility, or is the subject of a proceeding in which admission or commitment to such a mental health facility is sought; and

b. has no non-exempt assets or property in excess of the amounts specified in Rule 2.02(a)(2).

2.03 Partial Indigency.  A defendant determined to be partially indigent shall be eligible for appointment of counsel only upon payment to the county of the designated fee schedule as set forth in this Plan for misdemeanors, felonies, or a combination thereof.  If a defendant determined to be partially indigent pleads or is found guilty, the county may order the defendant to comply with a payment schedule to reimburse the county for all indigent defense costs in the case.

(a). A defendant shall be considered partially indigent if the defendant does not meet the standards for indigence set forth in paragraph 2 and:

(1). The defendant’s net household income is greater than 125% but does not exceed 175% of the Poverty Guidelines as established and revised annually by the United States Department of Health and Human Services and published in the Federal Register; and

(2). The value of the non-exempt assets and property owned by the defendant:

a. does not exceed $2,500.00;

b. does not exceed $5,000.00 in the case of a defendant whose household includes a person who is age 60 or over, disabled, or institutionalized; or

c. does not exceed the estimated costs of obtaining private legal representation on the offense(s) with which the defendant is charged.

(b). A defendant who does not meet any of the financial standards above shall nevertheless be determined partially indigent if the defendant is otherwise unable to retain private counsel without substantial hardship to the defendant or the defendant’s dependents, taking into account the nature of the criminal charge(s), the anticipated complexity of the defense, the estimated cost of obtaining competent private legal representation for the matter charged, and the amount needed for the support of the defendant and the defendant’s dependents.

2.04 Limitation.  The judge determining indigency shall not consider whether the defendant has posted bail, except to the extent that it reflects on the defendant’s financial circumstances.

2.05 Procedure.  Each person arrested who chooses to request the appointment of counsel, shall complete a sworn Application for Court Appointed Attorney, on a form approved by the county court at law and district judges of Hill County (See Appendix for approved forms).  The completed form shall be delivered to the judge or judge’s designee and utilized in determining the indigency of the requesting person. If counsel is appointed, the defendant shall have the continuing duty to notify the court immediately of any material change in the defendant’s financial circumstances.

2.06 Reimbursement.  If the Court determines that a defendant has financial resources that enable him to offset in part or in whole the costs of the legal services provided, including any expenses and costs, the court shall order the defendant to pay during the pendency of the charges or, if convicted, as court costs the amount that it finds the defendant is able to pay if it does not impose a payment to be made through the Probation Department to the Fund for Indigent Defense of Hill County.  §26.05(g), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

If convicted, the court may require a defendant who is unable to pay a fine or costs of court to discharge all or part of the fine or costs by performing community service with a governmental entity or nonprofit organization that provides services to the general public that enhance social welfare and the general well-being of the community.  The governmental entity or nonprofit organization that accepts a defendant must agree to supervise the defendant in the performance of the defendant’s work and report on the defendant’s work to the court-related services office.

2.07 Review of Indigency.  The defendant is presumed to remain indigent for the remainder of the case unless a material change in the defendant’s circumstances occurs.

(a) The defendant’s status as indigent or not indigent may be reviewed in a formal hearing at any stage of court proceedings, on a motion for reconsideration by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or the attorney representing the state.  The defendant’s indigent status will be presumed not to have changed. The presumption can be rebutted in the review proceedings based on the following:
(1) Evidence of a material change in the defendant’s financial circumstances as a result of which the defendant does not meet any of the standards for indigence contained in these rules; or 

(2) Additional information regarding the defendant’s financial circumstances that shows that the defendant does not meet any of the standards for indigence contained in these rules.

(b) If a defendant previously determined to be indigent is subsequently determined not to be indigent, the attorney shall be compensated by the county according to the fee schedule for hours reasonably expended on the case.  The court may take into consideration, a defendant’s subsequent ability to retain counsel, to require the defendant to reimburse court appointed attorney’s fees. 

Minimum Attorney Qualifications
10/28/2019
 General Objective Qualifications to Receive Appointments.

(1) currently licensed and in good standing with the State Bar of Texas; 

(2) consistently demonstrates commitment to providing effective assistance of counsel and quality representation to criminal defendants;

(3) consistently demonstrates professionalism, proficiency and reliability in representing criminal defendants, and in  dealing with the courts and opposing counsel;

(4) be of sound mind, as well as good moral and ethical character;

(5) not have been sanctioned by the court for failure to appear or any type of unprofessional or abusive conduct;

(6) not have been the recipient of any public disciplinary action by the State Bar of Texas or any other attorney licensing authority of any state or the United States within the last five (5) years;

(7) not have been convicted of any felony offense or of any misdemeanor involving moral turpitude within the last ten (10) years.  For the purposes of this requirement, “convicted” includes, but is not limited to, serving any period of probation, community supervision, or deferred adjudication supervision under any order of a court of record, regardless of whether the charges were ultimately dismissed or not. 

(8) not be delinquent in the payment of obligations to the State Bar of Texas, or to any taxing authority, including Hill County, the State of Texas, and the United States;

(9) not be delinquent in the payment of any child support obligation;

(10) must have and maintain an office with a permanent physical address (other than a Post Office Box), together with a facsimile transmission machine and telephone capable of receiving information twenty-four (24) hours per day;

(11) timely and promptly respond to telephone, e-mail, regular mail or fax requests from each court;

(12) promptly notify the Hill County District Judge, in writing of any changes of address, telephone, email or standing with the State Bar of Texas;

(13) annually file with the Hill County Distrct Judge, by the last day of the attorney’s birth month, an accurate copy of his/her State Bar of Texas Minimum Continuing Legal Education Annual Verification Report and a sworn “Annual Certification of Attorney” that he/she is in compliance with the general and specific qualifications required under this Plan;

(14) unless currently certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, must annually complete a minimum of six (6) hours of continuing legal education pertaining to criminal law;

(15) timely appear and represent each appointed defendant at each and every court date scheduled by the court.  The only exceptions for a designated substitute attorney to appear for the appointed attorney will be for a docket appearance where previously approved by the trial court and with the approval of the defendant, and to consummate a previously negotiated case settlement with the approval of the trial court and the defendant.  All continuances must be filed and properly verified in accordance with the Texas Rules of Criminal Procedure.  A hearing and ruling must be procured unless agreed to by all parties and the Court;

(16) within 72 hours of receiving the notice of appointment, submit to the Court, an acknowledgment of the appointment and a confirmation that the attorney has made the reasonable effort required under Article 26.04(j)(1) to contact the defendant by the end of the first working day after the date of appointment;

(17) within ten days of receiving the notice of appointment personally interview any defendant incarcerated in the Hill County Jail.  A court MAY REPLACE AN ATTORNEY if the appointed attorney does not interview an incarcerated defendant within this ten day period. If the defendant is incarcerated in the Hill County Jail, the appointed attorney shall maintain a minimum of one personal contact with the Defendant per month;

(18) must appear for arraignment and pretrial proceedings and may not waive arraignment for an incarcerated defendant unless the waiver is signed by the defendant; 

(19) submit only a properly documented and accurate “Request for Motion for Court Appointed Attorney’s Fees / Approval; and 

(20) with the exception of the appellate list, unless already approved for appointments in Hill County Texas, must live in Hill County or contiguous counties; if the attorney resides or offices in a contiguous county, the attorney must present a reference letter from a judge in the county in which they reside or office.

(21) no later than October 15, submit a statement that describes the percentage of the attorney’s practice time that was dedicated to work based on appointments accepted in this county for adult criminal cases and juvenile cases for the prior 12 months that begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.  The report must be submitted through the online form to the Texas Indigent Defense Commission.

(22) All attorneys are subject to a one year probationary period and may be removed from the appointment list at the sole discretion of the Judge.   

 Specific Objective Qualifications to Receive Appointments

(1) Misdemeanor Cases

(a) Practiced in the area of criminal law for at least one (1) year or exhibited professionalism and reliability when providing representation to criminal defendants.
(2) Other Felony List.

(a) Meet the minimum qualifications for placement on the Misdemeanor List;

(b) Practiced in the area of criminal law for at least two (2) years; 

(c) Have tried to verdict at least two (2) criminal jury trials as lead counsel.

(3) 3g/Enhanced Felony List

(a) Meet the minimum qualifications for placement on the Misdemeanor List;

(b) Practiced in the area of criminal law for at least three (3) years; and 

(c) Have tried to verdict at least ten (10) criminal jury trials as lead counsel, five of which must have been felony trials.

(4) Capital Felony List

(a) Meet the minimum qualifications for placement on the 3g/enhanced Felony List;

(b) Comply with the requirements of Article 26.052 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure; and 

(c) Be admitted to the Third Administrative Judicial Region’s List of Court-Appointed Counsel for Capital Felony Cases.

(5) Appellate Attorney List
(a) Meet the minimum qualifications on the Other Felony List; and 

(b) Unless currently certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, have acted as counsel on appeal in at least 3 separate criminal appeals.

Minimum Attorney Qualifications for Adults

A.    The Judges hearing criminal cases shall establish attorney appointment lists for the following categories of offenses. Attorneys may apply for and be placed on multiple lists. To be eligible for an appointment list, an attorney must meet the following minimum requirements:

                                i.            Misdemeanor Qualification Requirements:

1.      All attorneys on the appointment list must ensure all information on their application is correct;

2.      An attorney must be a licensed practicing attorney and a member in good standing of the State Bar of Texas;

3.      An attorney shall submit by October 15th each year a statement that describes the percentage of the attorney's practice time that was dedicated to work based on appointments accepted in this county for adult criminal cases and juvenile delinquency cases for the prior 12 months that begins on October 1 and ends on September 30. The report must be submitted through the online form to the Texas Indigent Defense Commission/form prescribed by the Texas Indigent Defense Commission to the court administration office in the county.

4.      An attorney shall complete a minimum of 6 hours of CLE in the area of criminal law and procedure each year. All attorneys on the appointment list must file a certificate with the court administration office each year attesting to completion of the required CLE or submit documentation showing that the attorney is certified as a specialist in criminal law. Continuing legal education activity completed with-in a one year period immediately preceding an attorney’s initial reporting period may be used to meet the educational requirements for the initial year. Continuing legal education activity completed during any reporting period in excess of the minimum of 6 hours for such period may be applied to the following period’s requirement. The carryover provision applies to one year only;

5.      An attorney must have a minimum 2 year(s) experience in criminal law or partner with an attorney of at least 2 years experience who is willing to supervise and assist in the representation.

6.      An attorney must have experience as lead counsel in at least 1 criminal case(s) tried to verdict before a jury trial(s). The styles and cause numbers of these cases should be listed in the Statutory County Court’s appointment application form;

7.      An attorney may not have been the recipient of any public disciplinary action by the State Bar of Texas or any other attorney licensing authority of any state or the United States within the last 5 year(s);

8.      An attorney must maintain an office capable of receiving email, fax, and telephone calls;

9.      An attorney must have the ability to produce typed motions and orders;

10.  An attorney shall notify the court administration office promptly, in writing, of any matter that would disqualify the attorney by law, regulation, rule or under these guidelines from receiving appointments to represent indigent defendants.

                              ii.            State Jail and Third Degree Felony Case Qualification Requirements

1.      An attorney must meet general requirements for misdemeanor appointments;

2.      An attorney must have prior experience as 1st or 2nd chair in at least 3 criminal case(s) tried to verdict before a jury. At least 2 of the trial(s) must have been felonies. The styles and cause numbers of these cases must be listed in the District Courts appointment application form;

                            iii.            First and Second Degree Felony Case Qualification Requirements

1.      An attorney must meet the general requirements for State Jail and Third Degree Felony appointments.

2.      An attorney must have 5 years experience in criminal law;

3.      An attorney must have experience as 1st or 2nd chair in at least 5 felony case(s) tried to verdict before a jury. At least 5 of the trial(s) must have been felonies. The styles and cause numbers of these cases must be listed in the District Courts appointment application form.

                            iv.            Capital Case Qualification Requirements:

1.      Lead trial counsel must be on the list of attorneys approved by the local selection committee of this Administrative Judicial Region for appointment as lead counsel in death penalty cases, as provided in Article 26.052, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

2.      Second chair counsel must be on the list of attorneys approved by the local selection committee of this administrative judicial region for appointment as lead trial counsel or second chair counsel in death penalty cases, as provided in Article 26.052, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

3.      Appellate counsel must be on the list of attorneys approved by the local selection committee of this administrative judicial region for appointment as appellate counsel in death penalty cases, as provided in Article 26.052, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

                              v.            Appeal Qualification Requirements - An attorney must meet at least one of the following criteria:

1.      Be currently board certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization; or

2.      Have personally authored and filed at least three criminal appellate briefs or post-conviction writs of habeas corpus; or

3.      Have submitted an appellate writing sample approved by a majority of the judges; or

4.      Have worked as a briefing clerk of an appellate court for a period of at least one year.

B.     Approval for Appointment Lists

                                i.            Misdemeanor List – An attorney must be approved by a majority of the Statutory County Court Judges hearing criminal cases.

                              ii.            State Jail and Third Degree Felony, First and Second Degree Felony List, Capital Case List, and Appeal List  - An attorney must be approved for each list by a majority of the District Court and County Court at Law Judges hearing criminal cases.

C.     Removal from Appointment List - The judges will monitor attorney performance on a continuing basis to assure the competency of attorneys on the list. An attorney may be removed or suspended, as appropriate, from one or more appointment lists by a majority vote of the judges.

D.    Reinstatement to Appointment Lists

                                i.            An attorney who was removed from the appointment list for non-completion of the required CLE hours may be immediately reinstated upon providing proof that the attorney has completed the required hours so long as the attorney otherwise meets the other qualifications under this Plan.

                              ii.            An attorney who was removed from the appointment list for not submitting the attorney's annual practice time report may be immediately reinstated upon submission of the report so long as the attorney otherwise meets the other qualifications under this Plan.

                            iii.            An attorney who has been removed from the appointment list for any other reason and who wishes to be reinstated must apply through the original application process. 

E.     Duties of Appointed Counsel - Appointed Counsel shall:

                                i.            Notify the court within 72 hours of the receipt of appointment;

                              ii.            Make every reasonable effort to:

1.      Contact the defendant by the end of the first working day after the date on which the attorney is appointed; and

2.      Interview the defendant as soon as practicable after the attorney is appointed;

                            iii.            Represent the defendant until:

1.      Charges are dismissed;

2.      The defendant is acquitted;

3.       Appeals are exhausted; or

4.      The attorney is relieved of his duties by the court or replaced by other counsel after a finding of good cause entered on the record.

                            iv.            Investigate, either by self or through an investigator, the facts of the case and be prepared to present any factual defense(s) that may be reasonably and arguably available to the defendant;

                              v.            Brief the law of the case and be prepared to present any legal defense(s) that may be reasonably and arguably available to the defendant;

                            vi.            Be prepared to negotiate with the prosecutor for the most favorable resolution of the case as can be achieved through a plea agreement;

                          vii.            Be prepared to try the case to conclusion either with or without a jury;

                        viii.            Be prepared to file post-trial motions, give notice of appeal and appeal the case pursuant to the standards and requirements of the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure;

                            ix.            Maintain reasonable communication and contact with the client at all times and keep the client informed of the status of the case; and

                              x.            Advise the client on all matters involving the case and such collateral matters as may reasonably be required to aid the client is making appropriate decisions about the case; and

                            xi.            Perform the attorney’s duty owed to the defendant in accordance with these procedures, the requirements of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and applicable rules of ethics.

                          xii.            Manage attorney’s workload to allow for the provision of quality representation and the execution of the responsibilities listed in these rules in every case.


Prompt Appointment of Counsel
10/17/2016
Assignment of Attorneys.  The following method shall be used to assign attorneys from the appropriate public appointment list to represent individual defendants: 

(a) Prompt Appearance Before a Magistrate. The law enforcement officer making the arrest and any officer who later has custody of an accused person shall ensure that the person is taken before any magistrate (Justice of the Peace) authorized by law without unnecessary delay, but not later than 48 hours after the person was arrested. The magistrate (Justice of the Peace)  before whom the arrested person is brought shall administer the required magistrate's warnings, set bail, if appropriate, and provide the person with an application for court appointed attorney and assistance in completing the application, if appointment of counsel is requested by the individual arrested.

(b) Transmittal of Request for Appointed Counsel.  Any magistrate (Justice of the Peace) who administers magistrate’s warnings to an arrested individual shall make a written note on any request for appointment of counsel of the date and time the request was made.  Pursuant to §15.17, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the magistrate (Justice of the Peace) shall, as soon as possible, without unnecessary delay, but not later than 24 hours after the person arrested requests appointment of counsel, transmit or cause to be transmitted to the Hill County District Court, as authorized under §26.04, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the forms requesting appointment of counsel for defendants charged with a Class A or B misdemeanor or any felony other than a capital felony.  If the arrested individual is charged with a capital felony, the request and any documentation shall be delivered within twenty-four (24) hours to the Local Administrative District Judge, who shall determine indigency and appoint counsel within three (3) working days after the request is received.

(c) Any Judge on the Hill County Judicial Committee may Determine Indigency and Appoint Counsel for Incarcerated Individuals. If the individual requesting appointment of counsel remains incarcerated on the charges, the Judges, shall, within three (3) working days after the request for appointment of counsel is received by the Distrct Judge, determine whether or not the requesting arrested individual is indigent and, if found to be indigent, shall appoint an attorney from the appropriate list. In determining which attorney to appoint, the Judge shall appoint the attorney whose name next appears in order on the public appointment list that corresponds to the most serious offense as currently charged, unless any of the following circumstances exist, which override the sequential appointment preference:

(1) if the defendant requesting appointed counsel does not understand English, an attorney who can communicate with the defendant in the defendant’s language is preferable to one who cannot;

(2) if the defendant requesting appointed counsel has pending charges in which he has previously been appointed counsel, the attorney who was previously appointed should be appointed;

(3) if the defendant requesting appointed counsel has been arrested on both felony and misdemeanor charges, or has pending felony charges at the time of a misdemeanor arrest, an attorney from the appropriate Felony List should be appointed; or

(4) if the defendant requesting appointed counsel has been arrested on any motion to proceed with adjudication or motion to revoke community supervision, and the attorney who represented the defendant at the time the defendant was placed on supervision continues to be on the appropriate public appointment list, the attorney who represented the defendant previously should be appointed.

(d) Limitation on Appointment after Overriding Circumstance.  When any attorney is appointed out of order due to an overriding circumstance, that attorney shall not receive another sequential appointment until every other attorney on that list has received an appointment in that rotation (but may receive additional overriding circumstance appointments).  

(e) Ad Hoc Distribution of Appointments in the Trial Court.  The Court may deviate from the rotation system and appoint an attorney in that court who is specifically qualified under the Plan on an ad hoc basis to represent indigent defendants upon a finding of good cause to deviate from the rotation system.

(f) Determination of Indigency and Appointment Counsel for Individuals Not Incarcerated. If the individual requesting appointment of counsel has been released from custody and charges have been filed, the District Court Judge shall review the application and determine indigency of the defendant.  If the defendant requesting appointment of counsel was initially denied an attorney, that defendant may contact the Distrct Court  in person or by telephone, between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, or may call for an appointment to complete a new application which will be considered and ruled on immediately. The misdemeanor request and any related documentation shall be maintained by the District Court  Judge and delivered to the assigned court upon the filing of a charging instrument by either the District Attorney or the County Attorney.  
(g) TDCJ Inmates Charged with Offenses Committed While in TDCJ Custody.  Notwithstanding anything herein to the contrary, if the court determines that a defendant before the court is indigent and is an inmate charged with an offense committed while in the custody of the Institutional Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, the court may request the Office of the State Counsel for Offenders to provide legal representation to that defendant in accordance with Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Art. 26.051 and the policies and procedures established by the Texas Board of Criminal Justice.

Appoint Counsel Promptly for Adults 

A.    Prompt Appointment of Counsel

                                i.            Counsel shall be appointed as soon as possible to indigent defendants, but no later than the end of the third working day after the date on which the appointing authority receives the defendant’s request for court appointed counsel. Working day means Monday through Friday, excluding official state holidays.  Counsel must be appointed whether or not a case has been filed in the trial court.

                              ii.            If the defendant is released from custody prior to the appointment of counsel, appointment of counsel is not required until the defendant’s first court appearance or when adversarial judicial proceedings are initiated, whichever comes first.

                            iii.            If an indigent defendant is arrested in another county based on this county’s warrant, counsel will be appointed within three working days of this county’s receipt of the request for counsel.

                            iv.            If a defendant is arrested in this county based on another county’s warrant, counsel will be appointed for the defendant if, on the eleventh day after the arrest, the defendant is still in this county’s custody.

                              v.            If a defendant wishes to request counsel prior to the initial appearance, the forms required to request counsel may be obtained at the Texas Indigent Defense Commission’s website at http://tidc.tamu.edu/public.net/ or from: Hill County Indigent Defense Office. The defendant may submit these forms to: P.O. Box 526 Hillsboro, Texas 76645.

The court will rule on all requests for counsel submitted in this manner.

                            vi.            Appointment Authority

1.      If no case has been filed in the trial court, the appointing authority for misdemeanors is: Hill County Indigent Defense Coordinator.

2.      If no case has been filed in the trial court, the appointing authority for felonies is: Hill County Indigent Defense Coordinator.

3.      If the case has been filed in the trial court, the appointing authority is: Hill County Indigent Defense Coordinator.

B.     Defendants Appearing Without Counsel - If a defendant appears without counsel in any adversary judicial proceeding that may result in punishment by confinement:

                                i.            The court may not direct or encourage the defendant to communicate with the attorney representing the state until the court advises the defendant of the right to counsel and the procedure for requesting appointed counsel and the defendant has been given a reasonable opportunity to request appointed counsel.

                              ii.            If the defendant has requested appointed counsel, the court may not direct or encourage the defendant to communicate with the attorney representing the state unless the appointing authority has denied the request and, subsequent to the denial, the defendant:

1.      Has been given a reasonable opportunity to retain and has failed to retain appointed counsel; or

2.      Waived or has waived the opportunity to retain private counsel.

                            iii.            The attorney representing the state may not:

1.      Initiate or encourage an attempt to obtain from the defendant a waiver of the right to counsel; or

2.      Communicate with a defendant who has requested the appointment of counsel, unless the appointing authority has denied the request and subsequent to the denial, the defendant:

a.       Has been given a reasonable opportunity to retain counsel; or

b.      Waives or has waived the opportunity to retain private counsel.

C.     Waiver of the Right to Counsel

                                i.            A defendant may voluntarily and intelligently waive the right to counsel.

                              ii.            A waiver obtained in violation of section IV.B above is presumed invalid.

                            iii.            If a defendant wishes to waive the right to counsel for purposes of entering a guilty plea or proceeding to trial, the court shall advise the defendant of the nature of the charges against the defendant and, if the defendant is proceeding to trial, the dangers and disadvantages of self-representation.  If the court determines that the waiver is voluntarily and intelligently waived, the court shall provide the defendant with a statement substantially in the following form, which, if signed by the defendant, shall be filed with and become part of the record of the proceedings.

“I have been advised this ___ day of ____, 2___, by the (name of court) Court of my right to representation by counsel in the case pending against me.  I have been further advised that if I am unable to afford counsel, one will be appointed for me free of charge.  Understanding my right to have counsel appointed for me free of charge if I am not financially able to employ counsel, I wish to waive that right and request the court to proceed with my case without an attorney being appointed for me.  I hereby waive my right to counsel. (signature of defendant)”

                            iv.            A defendant may withdraw a waiver of the right to counsel at any time but is not entitled to repeat a proceeding previously held or waived solely on the grounds of the subsequent appointment or retention of counsel.  If the defendant withdraws a waiver, the trial court, in its discretion, may provide the appointed counsel 10 days to prepare.


Attorney Selection Process
10/29/2015
Method of Appointment.  Attorneys shall be appointed to represent indigent adult defendants from public appointment lists using an “alternative program” as described in Article 26.04(g) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure and as further specified in this rule.

Public Appointment Lists.  The judges hereby establish the following public appointment lists from which counsel for indigent defendants shall be appointed:

(a) A Misdemeanor List consisting of attorneys eligible for appointment in Class A and B misdemeanors.

(b) An Other Felony List consisting of attorney eligible for appointment in any non-capital felony case which is not:

(1) an offense listed under Tex. Code Crim. Pro. Art. 42.12, Sec. 3g(a)(1); or

(2) an offense for which the punishment may be enhanced under Tex. Pen. Code Sec. 12.42(b), (c) or (d).

(c) A 3g/Enhanced Felony List consisting of attorneys eligible for appointment to represent indigent defendants in any non-capital felony case which is:

(1) an offense listed under Tex. Code Crim. Pro. Art. 42.12, Sec. 3g(a)(1); or

(2) an offense for which the punishment may be enhanced under Tex. Penal Code Sec. 12.42(b), (c) or (d)

(d) A Capital Felony List consisting of attorneys eligible for appointment in capital felony cases.

(e) An Appellate Attorney List consisting of attorneys eligible for appointment to represent indigent defendants on appeal from any Class A or B misdemeanor and any non-capital felony case. 

Attorney Qualifications. At least twice each year, on or before April 1st and October 1st, attorneys may apply to be included on one or more of the public appointment lists.  In order to be considered to receive appointments and, once approved, to continue to receive appointments to represent indigent felony defendants in Hill County, an attorney must meet the following minimum qualifications:
(a) General Objective Qualifications to Receive Appointments.

(1) currently licensed and in good standing with the State Bar of Texas; 

(2) consistently demonstrates commitment to providing effective assistance of counsel and quality representation to criminal defendants;

(3) consistently demonstrates professionalism, proficiency and reliability in representing criminal defendants, and in  dealing with the courts and opposing counsel;

(4) be of sound mind, as well as good moral and ethical character;

(5) not have been sanctioned by the court for failure to appear or any type of unprofessional or abusive conduct;

(6) not have been the recipient of any public disciplinary action by the State Bar of Texas or any other attorney licensing authority of any state or the United States within the last five (5) years;

(7) not have been convicted of any felony offense or of any misdemeanor involving moral turpitude within the last ten (10) years.  For the purposes of this requirement, “convicted” includes, but is not limited to, serving any period of probation, community supervision, or deferred adjudication supervision under any order of a court of record, regardless of whether the charges were ultimately dismissed or not. 

(8) not be delinquent in the payment of obligations to the State Bar of Texas, or to any taxing authority, including Hill County, the State of Texas, and the United States;

(9) not be delinquent in the payment of any child support obligation;

(10) must have and maintain an office with a permanent physical address (other than a Post Office Box), together with a facsimile transmission machine and telephone capable of receiving information twenty-four (24) hours per day;

(11) timely and promptly respond to telephone, e-mail, regular mail or fax requests from each court;

(12) promptly notify the Hill County Distrct Judge 1, in writing of any changes of address, telephone, email or standing with the State Bar of Texas;

(13) annually file with the Hill County Distrct Judge 1, by the last day of the attorney’s birth month, an accurate copy of his/her State Bar of Texas Minimum Continuing Legal Education Annual Verification Report and a sworn “Annual Certification of Attorney” that he/she is in compliance with the general and specific qualifications required under this Plan;

(14) unless currently certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, must annually complete a minimum of six (6) hours of continuing legal education pertaining to criminal law;

(15) timely appear and represent each appointed defendant at each and every court date scheduled by the court.  The only exceptions for a designated substitute attorney to appear for the appointed attorney will be for a docket appearance where previously approved by the trial court and with the approval of the defendant, and to consummate a previously negotiated case settlement with the approval of the trial court and the defendant.  All continuances must be filed and properly verified in accordance with the Texas Rules of Criminal Procedure.  A hearing and ruling must be procured unless agreed to by all parties and the Court;

(16) within 72 hours of receiving the notice of appointment, submit to the Court, an acknowledgment of the appointment and a confirmation that the attorney has made the reasonable effort required under Article 26.04(j)(1) to contact the defendant by the end of the first working day after the date of appointment;

(17) within ten days days of receiving the notice of appointment personally interview any defendant incarcerated in the Hill County Jail.  A court MAY REPLACE AN ATTORNEY if the appointed attorney does not interview an incarcerated defendant within this ten day period. If the defendant is incarcerated in the Hill County Jail, the appointed attorney shall maintain a minimum of one personal contact with the Defendant per month;

(18) must appear for arraignment and pretrial proceedings and may not waive arraignment for an incarcerated defendant unless the waiver is signed by the defendant; 

(19) submit only a properly documented and accurate “Request for Motion for Court Appointed Attorney’s Fees / Approval; and 

(20) with the exception of the appellate list, unless already approved for appointments in Hill County, Texas, must live in Hill County or contiguous counties; if the attorney resides or offices in a contiguous county, the attorney must present a reference letter from a judge in the county in which they reside or office.

(21) no later than October 15, submit a statement that describes the percentage of the attorney’s practice time that was dedicated to work based on appointments accepted in this county for adult criminal cases and juvenile cases for the prior 12 months that begins on October 1 and ends on September 30.  The report must be submitted through the online form to the Texas Indigent Defense Commission.

(22) All attorneys are subject to a one year probationary period and may be removed from the appointment list at the sole discretion of the Judge.   

(b) Specific Objective Qualifications to Receive Appointments

(1) Misdemeanor Cases

(a) Practiced in the area of criminal law for at least one (1) year or exhibited professionalism and reliability when providing representation to criminal defendants.
(2) Other Felony List.

(a) Meet the minimum qualifications for placement on the Misdemeanor List;

(b) Practiced in the area of criminal law for at least two (2) years; 

(c) Have tried to verdict at least two (2) criminal jury trials as lead counsel.

(3) 3g/Enhanced Felony List

(a) Meet the minimum qualifications for placement on the Misdemeanor List;

(b) Practiced in the area of criminal law for at least three (3) years; and 

(c) Have tried to verdict at least ten (10) criminal jury trials as lead counsel, five of which must have been felony trials.

(4) Capital Felony List

(a) Meet the minimum qualifications for placement on the 3g/enhanced Felony List;

(b) Comply with the requirements of Article 26.052 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure; and 

(c) Be admitted to the Third Administrative Judicial Region’s List of Court-Appointed Counsel for Capital Felony Cases.

(5) Appellate Attorney List
(a) Meet the minimum qualifications on the Other Felony List; and 

(b) Unless currently certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, have acted as counsel on appeal in at least 3 separate criminal appeals.

Fee and Expense Payment Process
10/30/2019
Attorney Fee Schedule and Compensation of Appointed Attorneys

Trial Fee Schedule.  Hill County will pay appointed counsel for all trial time reasonably necessary for adequate representation of the defendant, as approved by a judge, according to the following fee schedule adopted as provided under Article 26.05(b) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure:

SCHEDULE OF FEES

The following schedule of fees for court appointed counsel representing criminal defendants in Hill County Courts shall be effective October 30, 2019, to-wit
  1. FIXED RATE:
    1. For the prosecution to a final conclusion of a bona fide appeal to a Court of Appeals, or to the Court of Criminal Appeals if made directly from the trial court, a reasonable fee, but in no event less than $350.00.
    2. For a petition for discretionary review to the Court of Criminal Appeals, a reasonable fee, but in no event less than $350.00.
    3. For a habeas corpus proceeding, a reasonable fee, but in no event less than $100.00
    4. For the prosecution to a final conclusion of a bona fide appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals in a case where the death penalty has been assessed, a reasonable fee, but in no event less than $750.00.
  2. HOURLY RATE:
    1. For reasonable and necessary time spent by the attorney out of court on a case , the hourly rate of no less than $70.00 per hour, with a maximum of 10 out of court hours unless additional hours are approved in advance by the Court.
    2. The attorney shall keep an accurate account of his/her time spent, subject matter of the time expenditure, dates involved, necessity for expenditure of time, and be prepared to furnish reasonable documentation thereof if requested by the Court.
  3. DAILY RATE:
    1. For each day in Court representing the litigant or defendant in a non-jury proceeding a reasonable fee, but in no event less than $100.00 per day.
    2. For each day in Court representing the litigant or defendant in a non-capital jury proceeding a reasonable fee, but in no event less than $500.00 per day.
    3. For each day in Court representing the defendant in a capital case prior to jury proceeding a reasonable fee, but in no event less than $250.00 per day.
    4. For each day in Court representing the defendant in a capital case before a jury a reasonable fee, but in no event less than $500.00 per day.
    5. An attorney may not receive more than four DAILY RATE fees under this section for each day in each court, regardless of the number of cases in which he appears as appointed counsel on the same day in each particular court. An attorney may, effective March 28, 2019, claim up to four daily rate fees regardless of which court or courts, before which the attorney appears, to-wit: if the attorney appears on a court appointed case before the county, county court-at-law and district court, on the same date he or she would be eligible to claim up to four (4) days in court. In lieu of the DAILY RATE, an attorney may elect to charge up to four (4) in-court hours at $70.00 per hour.In no event may an attorney charge more than $400 per day in DAILY RATE fees or more than $280 per day of in-court hourly fees.An attorney may not charge both a DAILY RATE and an in-court hourly rate on the same day.
  4. For good cause or exceptional circumstances, an appointed attorney may request payment at a rate above the rates specified, subject to review and approval by the judge presiding over the case. The court may order payment of up to $250.00 per hour.








Incidental Expenses.  Appointed counsel, both trial and appellate, shall be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary incidental expenses such as copying, telephone, mileage, etc., incurred without prior approval of the Court. 

Investigations and Expert Testimony.  Counsel appointed in a non-capital case shall be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary expenses, including expenses for investigation and for mental health and other experts.  Expenses incurred with and without prior court approval shall be reimbursed, according to the procedures set forth below.  When possible, prior court approval should be obtained before incurring expenses for investigation and for mental health and other experts.

(a) Procedure with Prior Court Approval.  Appointed counsel may file with the trial court a Motion for Court Appointed Attorneys Fee/Approval (Appendix E) together with a pretrial ex parte confidential request for advance payment of investigative and expert expenses.  The request for advance payment of expenses must state, as applicable:

(1) the type of investigation to be conducted or the type of expert to be retained;

(2) specific facts that suggest the investigation will result in admissible evidence or that the services of an expert are reasonably necessary to assist in the preparation of a potential defense; and

(3) an itemized list of anticipated expenses for each investigation or each expert.

(b) Procedure Without Prior Court Approval.  Appointed counsel may incur investigative or expert expenses without prior approval of the court. Appointed counsel may file with the trial court a Motion for Court Appointed Attorneys Fee/Approval (Appendix E).  The motion must have an itemized statement attached which states, as applicable:

(1) the type of investigation that was conducted or the type of expert that was retained; 

(2) specific facts that show the investigation was necessary to assist in preparation of the defense; and

(3) an itemized list of actual expenses incurred for each investigation or each expert.

(c) Approval of Requests.  On presentation of a Motion for Court Appointed Attorneys Fees/Approval (Appendix E) and the request for advance payment or itemized statement required, the court shall approve the payment of the requested amount if the expenses are reasonably necessary and reasonably incurred.  Upon approval by the Court, the completed Motion for Court-Appointed Attorneys Fees/Approval shall remain a public record and be transmitted to the County Auditor for payment.   If the request for advance payment or claim for reimbursement is made prior to the conclusion of the trial of the case, the request for claim, together with any supporting documentation, that was attached to the motion may be ordered sealed until the trial of the case is concluded.  All payments shall be made directly to the requesting counsel.  No payments will be made directly to the investigator or expert.

(d) Denial of Requests.  If the court denies in whole or in part a request for advance payment or a claim for reimbursement of expenses incurred for investigation or expert testimony, the court shall:

(1) state the reasons for the denial in writing; 

(2) attach the denial to the request or claim;

(3) submit the request or claim and denial as an exhibit to the record; and

(4) if the request or claim has been made ex parte prior to trial, may order the request or claim and denial sealed until the trial of the case is concluded.

4.06 Procedure for Compensation.  Not later than thirty (30) days after the case is disposed by the trial court, the appointed attorney shall prepare and submit to the trial court last having jurisdiction of the most serious offense case, a Motion for Court Appointed Attorney Fees on a form approved by the judges  (See Appendix for approved forms).  The motion shall include all services provided a single defendant, regardless of the number of cases disposed.  The judge shall determine the reasonableness of the amount requested based upon the time and labor required, the complexity of the case, and the experience and ability of the appointed counsel using the above fee schedules.  If the judge disapproves the requested amount, the judge shall make written findings stating the amount of payment that the judge approves and each reason for approving an amount different from the requested amount.  The attorney may file written objections to the court’s action and request an oral hearing to show the court reasons that justify the amount requested.

4.07 Appeals from any Disapproval of Requested Amount.  The attorney may appeal any determination disapproving the requested amount to the Presiding Judge of the Third Administrative Judicial Region in accordance with the rules promulgated by the Third Administrative Judicial Region.  The amount determined by the Presiding Judge of the Third Administrative Judicial Region shall be paid by Hill County to the attorney appointed within forty-five (45) days after the appeal is determined.




Plan Documents
Hill District and County Court Affidavit of Indigence.doc (11/18/2009 3:23:17 PM) view
Hill District and County Court Attorney Application for Appointment.doc (10/29/2015 1:40:36 PM) view
Hill District and County Court Attorney Fee Schedule.pdf (10/30/2019 2:33:24 PM) view
Hill District and County Court Attorney Fee Voucher.doc (11/18/2009 3:22:34 PM) view
Hill District and County Court Felony Attorney Appointment List.doc (11/19/2009 10:46:18 AM) view
Hill District and County Court FELONY ATTORNEY LIST.doc (10/29/2015 1:42:10 PM) view
Hill District and County Court Misdemeanor Attorney Appointment List.doc (11/19/2009 10:55:38 AM) view
Hill District and County Court Spanish Affidavit of Indigence.doc (11/18/2009 4:03:42 PM) view