City Council Holds Hearing on Bills Related to Conflict Counsel

, The Legal Intelligencer

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City Hall in Philadelphia
City Hall in Philadelphia

Muench, who also serves as a court-appointed defense attorney, voiced support for the proposed legislation and testified that he had concerns about a lack of transparency of process relating to the previous conflict-counsel bid.

"This is what we wanted. To step back, take a breather, and take the opportunity to address some of these questions," Muench said. "The RFP that was presented was not very well done."

Muench added, "There's a need for oversight in this process. It should come before City Council and not the exclusive purview of the mayor."

Fedullo told The Legal that the bar association has not taken an official stance on the legislation to amend the city charter and proposed ordinance.

Fedullo testified that in the conflict counsel RFP development to come, the bar association "urges the city to adopt the [American Bar Association's] Ten Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System as its baseline for any program instituted to deliver legal representation" to those who cannot afford it and where the defender's office has a conflict of interest.

Fedullo also observed that the impact of conflict-counsel appointments is far-reaching.

"Each year, thousands of Philadelphians receive representation through the conflict-counsel appointment system. Thousands more are impacted by the appointment system, including the victims of crime, witnesses and family members."

The last testimony of the hearing was delivered by Director of Public Safety Michael Resnick, who spoke on behalf of the administration. In his testimony, Resnick said that the administration strongly opposed the bills.

"The addition of council review to the contract approval process will inevitably and without a doubt increase the out-of-pocket cost of the contracts," Resnick said.

He added, "Whether or not ultimately true, the practical reality is that many potential contractors will believe that council approval will mean political interference in contracting decisions, potentially causing some worthy contractors to simply drop out of the process and others to increase their price as protection against anticipated increased contracting requirements."

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