August 20, 2004

Where have all the stoners gone? National group declares crisis in Idaho

Alert readers will remember the comments of one of my Idaho colleagues, explaining how the job is becoming less fun as more of our clients make the switch from marijuana to meth. He made the point in a public hearing to his county commissioners. As part of his request to add money for a new half-time attorney position to next year's public defender contract, Doug told his funders,

Methamphetamine users tend to feel invincible and be much less cooperative and more agitated, often making their defense more difficult and time consuming.

That's the story here in Double Drip too. Some days I miss the junkies of my PD youth: they were the mellow fellows, relaxed, some times charming even, with a remarkable insight into their particular back-monkey and never posing much more of a threat to the community than walking out of buildings with other people's merchandise. Stoners, too, were pleasant company, and I never had a marijuana client who injured anybody while under the influence of the gentle herb.

Meth cases are harder because meth clients are harder. Their lives are harder, the monkey on their backs has a harder grip. People on meth deserve a touch of diplomacy and a lot more confidence-building. Even if your client's a beginning tweaker, nobody just waltzes into jail and announces, "I'm your lawyer, trust me." Meth is corrosive to attorney-client relationships as much as to clients. It's a nasty, nasty drug, and it's hell on poor people, no matter what my pro-legalization friends say.

Ah, but the later 80's - that was a simpler time. We practiced out of a windowless, now-demolished office below street level and hopped in our cars like the Battle of Britain to take the fight out to Traffic Court. Mark Stewart and Tim Hansen were our mentors, I shared an office with Doreen, a ratty green couch and a picture of Nelson Mandela, Eric's office sprouted mushrooms, and the cops were just starting to bring in customers caught holding something called crank. So, the clients got called cranksters. You know the rest: it's 2004, and my drug possessions, my burgs and forgeries, my DV's, my child protections, almost all my cases are shot through with the toxic off-white substance, as are most of my hapless clients.

The twist to this is that, with the best of intentions, the NLADA got ahold of the local paper's article on Doug's testimony and request for more funding for p.d.'s, perma-linked it here, and puffed up the original headline from

Public defenders say they need help
ID: Indigent Defense Crisis Looming in Idaho; Public Defenders Say They Need Help .

God bless the NLADA! The thought is appreciated, but hold the CARE packages: we're no more or less beleagured than the rest of you in PD-landia. I hope the commissioners in Doug's counties come through with the dollars. In the meantime, if you could spare a few potheads, we'd be much obliged.