It’s not as if poor Mainers charged with serious offenses have had unqualified attorneys assigned to their cases as a matter of course.

But because selecting attorneys (under the constitutional mandate that says everyone facing a court penalty is entitled to a lawyer) had formerly been left up to the discretion of judges, the possibility has always existed.

However, with the adoption July 1 of a new procedure for providing indigent defendants with lawyers, judges have been replaced by members of the independent Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services.

The commission, created by the Legislature in 2009, oversees a budget of about $10 million to pay attorneys and cover administrative expenses. It is designed to eliminate potential conflicts of interest involving judges picking the lawyers who will defend the people coming before them in court.

But the advent of the new commission didn’t remove all controversy from the system. That’s because it stepped into its new role without any rules providing minimum eligibility requirements for attorneys assigned to defend people charged with the most serious crimes on the books.

Such offenses require special training and experience to handle — felonies such as homicide, sex offenses, violent assaults and domestic violence, along with aggravated OUI and juvenile cases, protective custody suits and involuntary commitment proceedings.

That lack led attorneys and groups representing them to say that the possibility still existed for clients to get less-experienced representation than their cases required.

Now, however, a formal list of eligibility requirements has been drafted, and will come up for a public hearing before the commission at 1 p.m. today.

The list, which provides separate standards for each category of offense listed above, appears stringent.

In homicide cases, for example, attorneys would need five years of criminal law practice; trial experience as lead attorney in at least five serious violent felony, homicide or Class C or higher sex-offense cases within the past seven years; and several other high-level qualifications.

The standards are strict enough, in fact, that some attorneys may oppose them out of fear that they or their colleagues might be disqualified by them. But the commission’s executive director can waive either the experience or time limits — but not both — if circumstances require.

While the details can be debated, the overall necessity for such standards is plain, and either this proposal or something very close to it should be quickly adopted by the commission.