August 26, 2004

Cincy civil rights lawyer to PD's: go to jury trial once in a while!

Alert Reader somewhere deep in Ohio sends this link from Cincinnati, where a lawsuit filed Wednesday claims that "(p)oor defendants in Hamilton County suffer unnecessarily harsh punishments because the Public Defender's Office fails to seek jury trials in many criminal cases."

Maybe more to the point would be some lawsuits for judges who dole out unnecessarily harsh punishment because defendants seek jury trials .

Anyway, it's a fair point that you don't want a PD or a whole office of PD's not going to trial because they're not prepared, or don't have the time to prepare. This can be an instance where old-fashioned Western-style winging it is called for. Caseload pressure is one thing; earning a reputation as a dumptruck is another.

The suit is being brought on behalf of all misdemeanor clients of the PD's office by attorney Robert Newman. The article states that this is one of several filed by the same lawyer against the same PD's office.

Hamilton County, Ohio, does seem to have somewhat of a novel system, where misdemeanor cases are handled by the office's staff lawyers, while the more serious felony cases are handed off to private counsel, who are then paid by the county. We kind of like to keep the serious cases in-house out here. However, the Cincinnati model is better if your goal as a public official is to spread the wealth around. There's also a helpful page where, if your lawyer's too busy, you can download your own pleadings.

Not to let the PD's hog the limelight, and perhaps inspired by the example of the PD's office in Billings, Montana, yesterday the county prosecutor in Cincinnati had his own intra-office awkwardness to explain.