October 05, 2005

Severance and sufferance

My client walked into the courtroom this morning looking at a likely denial of our motion to sever, to be followed by a jury trial featuring some unpleasant testimony to be elicited from his "co-conspirator," to be followed by three-plus years DOC if we lost. He walked out with an unranked felony and a maximum 365 days to serve in county jail after sentencing.

This client wanted a real lawyer and paid cash money to retain one, but the judge wouldn't allow the substitution so close to trial. He did call his private lawyer this morning, and accepted the latest offer after getting a second opinion.

Oh well, I'm content. It most likely was a better outcome than we'd get from rolling the dice at trial.

In the future, disgruntled clients might want to print out this ready-made "Motion Request for a New Public Defender". Adaptable for most jurisdictions, it comes with stock grievances against public defenders already filled out. Just change a word here and there, and fill in the blanks, and you're well on your way to getting conflicts counsel.

If one wishes to kick the attorney-client conflict up a notch, there's the "Form to fire your attorney if you need". Picture the look on your p.d.'s face when she / he reads this:

I require that you comply with the following instructions to insure I receive an adequate defense (these instructions are not negotiable).

If you do not believe I am innocent, I require you to inform me of that fact immediately so you can be replaced by the court.

You will request the court to replace you based on your inability to adequately defend me. If you do not believe you can adequately defend me, I require you to inform me of that fact immediately so you can be replaced at your request to the court based on your inability to adequately defend me...

I require you to expose every lie by the agents of the state during hearings.

I do not give you the authority to speak with the judge, prosecutor, social workers, GAL, or anyone else connected with this case outside of my presence where I cannot hear and participate in the discussion. This includes sidebar conferences in the courtroom, conferences with prosecutors/county attorneys and conferences in the Judge's chambers.

In the event that Judge orders you to participate in a discussion outside of my presence, I will view it as unethical behavior and act accordingly. I require you to object often and effectively during hearings and trials. I require you to raise appealable issues at every opportunity, regardless of whether you think the judge will rule against you or not.

In the event I lose and, if you have raise(d) sufficient appealable issues, I will not have to appeal based on in effective assistance of counsel or sue you for malpractice or file a professional complaint against you.

Be advised, I have outsiders monitoring your progress and actions.

(Y)ou are specifically prohibited from disclosing the fact of this document's existence or it(s) contents to anyone else, including any associates, partners or supervisors, and/or any judges.

I need to have you to reply to this instrument as reaches it you and your office today.

And they wonder why young lawyers these days aren't flocking to do p.d. work! I thank my stars that I no longer handle this particular sort of case, but I can still cringe to imagine receiving this sort of demand letter. It's called an attorney-client relationship, after all.