In 2013, the National Survey of Indigent Defense Systems (NSIDS) was designed as a census of all forms of indigent defense public defender, contract counsel, and assigned or appointed counsel in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Indigent defense was characterized as state-administered (one or two central offices directing indigent defense for the entire state) or county-administered (each county provides and administers indigent defense, without a state central coordinating office). The surveys were sent to the state offices in the state-administered systems to provide information for the entire state. In county-administered states, the survey was sent to county offices (court administrators, contract administrators, public defenders).
For the 2013 census, NSIDS targeted indigent defense offices that practice in courts of general jurisdiction. Federal and municipal court indigent defenders were excluded by design. The survey collected information about the type of indigent defense delivery methods, caseloads, personnel and staffing, training opportunities, conflict management, funding and fees collected by indigent defense systems, and oversight by an advisory board or commission.