US

Texas county to be first in US to test idea of letting indigent defendants choose attorney

  • Criminal defense attorney Tommy Vaughn isphotographed Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in New Braunfels, Texas. Vaughn knows his clients may be distrustful when a court appoints him to handle their case. Without enough money to hire their own lawyer, defendants are often suspicious that court-appointed attorneys will provide a poor defense or just try to coerce a quick guilty plea. Indigent defendants in Comal County, between Austin and San Antonio, will be able to choose a defense attorney from a list to 30 to 50 names pre-approved by the court. The program, funded by a $200,000 grant, will be tried for a year and then assessed.  (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

    Criminal defense attorney Tommy Vaughn isphotographed Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in New Braunfels, Texas. Vaughn knows his clients may be distrustful when a court appoints him to handle their case. Without enough money to hire their own lawyer, defendants are often suspicious that court-appointed attorneys will provide a poor defense or just try to coerce a quick guilty plea. Indigent defendants in Comal County, between Austin and San Antonio, will be able to choose a defense attorney from a list to 30 to 50 names pre-approved by the court. The program, funded by a $200,000 grant, will be tried for a year and then assessed. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)  (The Associated Press)

  • Dib Waldrip, Comal County, Texas, 433rd District Court judge, is photographed Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in New Braunfels, Texas. Indigent defendants in Comal County, between Austin and San Antonio, will be able to choose a defense attorney from a list to 30 to 50 names pre-approved by the court.  Waltrip said he’s unsure simply “throwing money” at indigent defense will fix its problems and is looking forward to finding out if attorney choice can make courts more efficient.  (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

    Dib Waldrip, Comal County, Texas, 433rd District Court judge, is photographed Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in New Braunfels, Texas. Indigent defendants in Comal County, between Austin and San Antonio, will be able to choose a defense attorney from a list to 30 to 50 names pre-approved by the court. Waltrip said he’s unsure simply “throwing money” at indigent defense will fix its problems and is looking forward to finding out if attorney choice can make courts more efficient. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)  (The Associated Press)

  • Criminal defense attorney Tommy Vaughn isphotographed Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in New Braunfels, Texas. Vaughn knows his clients may be distrustful when a court appoints him to handle their case. Without enough money to hire their own lawyer, defendants are often suspicious that court-appointed attorneys will provide a poor defense or just try to coerce a quick guilty plea. Indigent defendants in Comal County, between Austin and San Antonio, will be able to choose a defense attorney from a list to 30 to 50 names pre-approved by the court. The program, funded by a $200,000 grant, will be tried for a year and then assessed.  (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

    Criminal defense attorney Tommy Vaughn isphotographed Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in New Braunfels, Texas. Vaughn knows his clients may be distrustful when a court appoints him to handle their case. Without enough money to hire their own lawyer, defendants are often suspicious that court-appointed attorneys will provide a poor defense or just try to coerce a quick guilty plea. Indigent defendants in Comal County, between Austin and San Antonio, will be able to choose a defense attorney from a list to 30 to 50 names pre-approved by the court. The program, funded by a $200,000 grant, will be tried for a year and then assessed. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)  (The Associated Press)

A Texas county is set to be the first place in the U.S. to test the idea of allowing indigent defendants to choose their own court-appointed lawyers.

Indigent defendants in Comal County, between Austin and San Antonio, will be able to choose a defense attorney from a list to 30 to 50 names pre-approved by the court.

Legal experts say the new system may allow defendants to be more invested in their cases and encourage attorneys to provide quality service or risk losing future business. The program, funded by a $200,000 grant, will be tried for a year and then assessed.

Indigent defense systems have long been criticized for large caseloads, inadequate funding and spotty quality.