In late 2008 and early 2009 the HHC carried out research into possible ways of assessing the quality of ex officio defense through studying actual case files. In the research, 150 already closed criminal cases files were analyzed in 8 different county courts on the basis of a standardized questionnaire with 168 questions prepared by an ad hoc expert group (consisting of the president of the Hungarian Bar Association, the co-chair of the HHC, the professional advisor to the President of the Supreme Court, a professor of criminal procedure law and two assistant professors). The research supported the already existing empirical data on substandard performance of appointed counsels, but also proved that a statistical analysis of case files can indeed serve as an efficient means of assessing the quality of defense.
The pilot research provided a unique opportunity to take a first step in the direction of developing a standardized methodology for the basic evaluation of the performance of ex officio appointed defense counsels. In an effort to advocate with key stakeholders for the long-term introduction of such a system, HHC experts wrote a study summarizing the key research findings. Also, in cooperation with the Budapest Bar Association, a successful two-day roundtable was held on 16-17 April 2009 with the purpose of discussing the material and draw conclusions from the results. The round-table was attended by legal practitioners as well as representatives of academia and key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement, the Metropolitan Court, the National Bar Association and county bars, the Constitutional Court and the National Police Headquarters.