Texas is reaching a crisis point, putting itself at risk of a civil rights lawsuit — or worse, a total meltdown of the criminal justice system — because it so severely shortchanges the system designed to ensure impoverished accused criminals get adequate legal representation, advocates told a Senate committee last week. … Nine years ago … Texas had more people in jail, more people on death row and executed more people than nearly any other state, but there was no mechanism to provide decent legal defense for the poor. … The question for the state and for criminal justice advocates, says Andrea Marsh, executive director of the Texas Fair Defense Project, is at what point the funding becomes so minimal that it is impossible to meet the Constitutional obligation to provide adequate defense. … In addition to funding questions, Marsh says, there are concerns about the fairness of the system. The American Bar Association, in its best practices for public defense, recommends that lawyers for indigent defendants be chosen independently — not by the judge, as is the case in most Texas counties. The Bar Association also calls for independent oversight of indigent defense lawyers and monitoring of their caseloads, neither of which regularly happen in Texas, Marsh says.