This is the letter I am sending to many places tonight or over the next few days:
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this issue with you. I appreciate your time. The Appellate Defender’s office would make the promise of Gideon closer to fulfillment in our Commonwealth.In 2009 the IDC abolished the Appellate Defender’s office. It had been in the central office since 1996 when I was hired at the Director of Capital and Appellate Services. That title was changed to Appellate Defender in 1998 or 1999. In 2000 I left that office and S. Jane Chittom, Esq. was appointed the Appellate Defender. She did a fabulous job for nine years, eventually supervising several attorneys and providing high quality services to indigents in VA. One of her high points was when the VSC held that you had to file the notice of appeal after the final order was entered or it was not valid. Her amicus brief persuaded the Court to reconsider that position and eventually the VSC laid down a new rule amending Rules 5:9 and 5:14. Chittom was named by the VLW a Leader in the Law in 2008 largely because of that. Her office also helped try to “avoid the OOPS” as I say and prevent some procedural default.What Senator Petersen introduced last year and should introduce this year is a budget amendment allocating $275,000 for a new Appellate Defender’s office – two attorneys and a support person. It would be in the HQ of the IDC here in Richmond. Chap has also introduced enabling legislation to make the AD’s office permanent: Senate Bill 738.What I envision (I am not sure Sen. Petersen agrees totally with this) is all the delayed appeals would be assigned to the AD’s office from both appellate courts, all appeals from existing PD offices and certain appeals from throughout the state as needed in the discretion of a circuit court judge.An AD’s office exists in other states such as Missouri, a state similar in size to Virginia (but they have a hybrid state-wide PD system which we do not have) and since appellate work is becoming increasingly an area of concentration for lawyers, the trial defenders ought not be both trial and appellate attorneys at the same time.Link to Missouri AD’s office:Selected pages of the Missouri Annual Report are added. They show of course a Post-Conviction unit that I do not want at this time the AD’s office to do.If you have any questions, feel free to call or email me. Thanks for your consideration.Elwood Earl “Sandy” Sanders, Jr.