Funding & Oversight
The PDO is funded through a grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission (formerly the Task Force on Indigent Defense). While judges will appoint the PDO to represent some indigent defendants, they will continue to appoint qualified private assigned counsel in many cases, resulting in a “hybrid system” that is designed to enhance effective representation of indigent defendants.
The PDO is monitored by a 15-member oversight board, with its budget controlled by the Harris County Commissioners Court.
- Provide trial and appellate representation to indigent clients charged with, or convicted of, felonies in district court.
- Provide trial counsel and support services to indigent clients who are acutely mentally ill or intellectually disabled and charged with a misdemeanor in the fifteen county criminal courts at law
- Provide representation for juveniles accused of acts of delinquency in juvenile court.
- Provide continuing legal education services to assistant public defenders and private defense counsel who represent indigent clients.
- Act as a resource and support to private defense counsel assigned to indigent clients.
- Improve the provision of services to mentally ill misdemeanor defendants.
- Utilize performance measures of indigent defense services to provide evidence of effectiveness.
- Engage in a collaborative effort with the defense bar for systemic policy development and decision-making.