Justice Center hosts “FDA at 20: Reflections on the 20th Anniversary of the Fair Defense Act”

The Justice Center recently hosted an online event marking the 20th anniversary of the Texas Fair Defense Act, which included a series of roundtable conversations and interactive sessions.

Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Harris County Commissioner, Precinct 1, who was instrumental in the FDA’s passage as a State Senator, provided opening remarks, along with Judge Sharon Keller, Presiding Judge of Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, who also chairs the Texas Indigent Defense Commission. The roundtable conversations addressed public defense in Texas before passage of the FDA, how the act was passed, and early progress after adoption of the law; current issues in public defense; and the future of public defense in Texas. For a complete list of speakers and a video link, visit: https://law.utexas.edu/probono/fda-at-20-reflections-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-fair-defense-act/

Mithoff Program Director Andrea Marsh is the Founding Executive Director of the Texas Fair Defense Project. Before joining Texas Law, she worked to improve Texas’s public defense system and was involved in early efforts to implement and enforce the FDA. While at TFDP, she litigated Rothgery v. Gillespie County, 554 U.S. 191 (2008), which challenged the practice of delaying appointment of counsel until after indictment and established that the right to counsel attaches at an individual’s initial appearance before a magistrate shortly after arrest. In 2016, the Texas Indigent Defense Commission honored Marsh for her career commitment to public defense at an event celebrating the 15th anniversary of the FDA.

Marsh continues to be involved in public defense improvement efforts and serves on the boards of 2 public defender programs established under the FDA—the new public defender office in Travis County, and the regional public defender program that provides representation in death penalty cases in over 150 Texas counties.  She also serves as the Vice Chair of the State Bar’s Committee on Legal Services to the Poor in Criminal Matters, which assisted in planning the FDA at 20 event.