The Arkansas Public Defender Commission (APDC) was created with the passage of Act 956 by the Arkansas General Assembly in 1991. This legislative act established the commission as an independent state agency responsible for overseeing the provision of legal representation to indigent individuals in criminal cases.
Prior to the establishment of the APDC, the provision of legal defense services to those who could not afford an attorney varied across Arkansas, often leading to inconsistent quality and access to representation. Recognizing the need for a more structured and uniform approach, the state legislature enacted Act 956 to centralize the administration and funding of public defense services.
The primary purpose of the APDC is to ensure that the constitutional right to counsel, as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, is upheld for individuals who are unable to afford their own legal representation. The commission’s responsibilities include overseeing the delivery of public defense services, establishing guidelines and standards for representation, and ensuring that qualified attorneys are available to provide competent legal defense to indigent defendants.
Since its creation, the Arkansas Public Defender Commission has worked to enhance the quality and accessibility of public defense services throughout the state. It collaborates with local public defender offices, private attorneys accepting court-appointed cases, and other stakeholders to ensure that adequate representation is available to those in need. The commission also provides training and support to public defenders and strives to promote fairness and justice within the criminal justice system of Arkansas.