September 12, 2004

Things I wish my clients' families knew

Last week Blonde Justice presented "Things I Wish My Clients Knew (Part 1), which could stand to be distributed in holding cells and p.d. office lobbies nationwide.

I've been trying to think of the equivalent for our clients' friends and families, more so now that the common complaint of "my public defender didn't return my phone calls" has been raised to the level of anarcho- syndicalist critique.

Fortunately, and predictably, it's already been said earlier and better at Prison Talk Online by one inmate's loved one:

"The Big Dog Theory....of the practice of defense of a caseload. Maybe it'll make a difference to how people 'react' to the prospect of not having the undivided attention of a PD or any other attorney. Give it some thought.

When it's the week of your trial YOU are the Big Dog. At any point in time prior to that, in the eyes of any attorney with any sort of caseload-- you are not the Big Dog.

Court dates, as we know, have vast expanses of time between them ... During that time, if your loved one is in jail, they get plenty of meals on plastic trays and ceaseless noise from neighbors and time to think, worry and wonder. During that time, if you are the loved one outside with a phone, you are compelled to want to grill the attorney, or get some sort of information to help or sooth or inform or placate the person who's got 395 more plastic trays to stare down before he lays eyes on this attorney again in court.

It's natural to be anxious and be concerned... The Client is his/her own best advocate because they are going to see more of this attorney than you are. Given that a pd's client may appear a lot like just another client/case, it's up to the client to inspire that attorney, and participate.

The attorney is going to see more of the client than you.
The attorney is going to have other clients to tend to.

There will come a Big Dog day or week for your person and you'll be better prepared for it if the client and you both understand what to expect. The one thing you can expect is that it's fortunate that the Big Dog theory exists, or that attorney would be taking calls in his pocket or missing the Court date entirely because he's fielding calls and having meetings with wives and girlfriends asking questions about bond reductions and probation and pleas for people who got arrested just last week.

They manage the cases they have, the time they have and the need they have to work hard. Plea negotiation and trial preparation are things that they don't need help with, and if they did, they'd ask. The direction they get comes from the client,.... if you can be of any help at all it would be in helping that client TO participate.

Thank you and bless you, Retired-1, whoever you are.

(The men and women of groups like Prison Talk Online do more to build jail solidarity and sustain inmates and their families year-in, year-out than a thousand indymedia posts. By contrast, saying, "Don’t be afraid. We are with you. We love all of you who were arrested," in the same article that slags the folks working for those same arrestees comes off as a new version of a scathing old parody: "Pull the triggers, _____,we're with you all the way/Just across the Bay.")

1 Comment:

Tom Lincoln said...

I agree with the Big Dog Theory, but there is another side to this as well, in which Courts are sometimes penny-wise and pound foolish. See Penny-wise Pound-foolish on CJA Voucher Approvals.