The Supreme Court has ruled that the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment requires free counsel for criminal defendants who cannot afford to pay an attorney.
The Pennsylvania Public Defender Act establishes how those services are provided in the state.
The state law requires counties to employ public defenders... but the state does not help pay for them.
According to a 2011 study, Pennsylvania was unique in that regard.
The Pennsylvania Senate is looking into funding a program that would help provide training and other resources for public defenders - and remove that unique status.
The proposed Pennsylvania Center for Effective Indigent Defense Legal Representation would provide training, help attorneys enhance capital case defense skills, and offer appropriate funding for criminal defense.
In that regard, the center might save Warren County some money.
"The county spends approximately $1,500 on continuing legal education and this organization may make that training free," Warren County Chief Public Defender John Parroccini said.
Depending on the form that training would take, the county may not save anything.
"I am not certain if the training refers to continuing legal education, which we have to have, or training in general," Parroccini said.
The center would not replace the existing public defender program.
It might, however, compete for scarce resources.
If passed, the bill would allocate $1 million in state funding to the establishment of the center. That's a million dollars that won't go directly to county offices.
"I don't want the state to be involved," Parroccini said. "The popular spin is this is going to take the burden off the counties. It really doesn't."
"The one thing for certain is that it will not subsidize the counties on salary like the state does with the district attorney," Parroccini said.
A 2005 state law requires counties to have full-time district attorneys and, according to that law, the state will reimburse counties 65 percent of those salaries.