May 31, 2005

Idaho to meth cooks: welcome!

This was predictable:

Now that Washington state lawmakers have restricted over-the-counter sales of the ingredients used to make the illicit drug, some officials are worried that Idaho will see an increase in meth-related crimes.

Both Oregon and Washington have adopted laws restricting the sale of cold and allergy medicines that contain substances used to make meth.

Idaho freshman Rep. John Rusche, D-Lewiston, pushed for a similar measure during the 2005 legislative session, but the bill failed in the Senate amid heavy lobbying from drug companies.

"I am significantly impressed at the impact large pharmaceutical companies and retailers have on the Legislature," said Rusche, a pediatrician.

They're gearing up for the next meth wave in Idaho Falls.

"Reality-based" commentary on regulating meth precursors here:

What amazes me is that the OTC drug lobby has so much power that the Congress, which is always happy to vote for longer drug sentences, is only now getting around to considering imposing this fairly minor inconvenience on a national basis to deal with today's #1 drug menace. It might well fizzle. But it's worth a shot.

"Hot air and ill-informed banter" about meth precursors here.

Bonus links and updates:

A harrowing quote from the 7th Circuit, courtesy of Indiana Public Defender.

Meth Mouth! (not for the dentally squeamish)

Mike at Crime and Federalism on what happens when after much crying of "wolf," there really is a wolf.

For instance, say you have an audience of Seattle NPR listeners, maybe skeptical already from the War on Drugs. In your region, something is devouring scores of people, maybe some you know. If you suggest putting pseudoephedrine behind the counter, should the listeners' first response be to shake their fists at The Man and vow, "Give me convenience or give me death"? "More addiction and crime from meth, or point-of-purchase Sudafed - don't make me choose!"? What a world.

(I thought that most of this recent talk show about meth on KUOW was uninformed and uninformative, but listen and judge for yourself.)

Twin Falls man murdered

Most Sunday nights for six years, I would turn on the ten o'clock news on our one local channel, dreading to hear whether anyone had been killed in my county that weekend. Murder is not just a big assault-and-battery; to a little p.d. office, it can hit like a hurricane. I'm six months gone from there, and I can still feel the anxiety.

It's happened again.

It turns out that I've have professional dealings with both the victim and the accused. My regards go out to Marilyn and Brody and the rest of my old office who are about to sail into this storm.

May 30, 2005

In memoriam p.d. Jim Slater

Jim Slater, chief assistant public defender in Manatee County, Florida, and a friend and mentor to many, died on May 26, 2005. This page was set up to allow all to share memories or sentiments about Jim.

Here are two newspaper articles about him.

May 27, 2005

What is torture?


What Is Torture?
An interactive primer on American interrogation

Chain of command - legal memos - "taxonomy of torture" - military reports

That is all.

(link via Balkinization)

(Update: the The QandO Blog on torture, via Balloon Juice.)

Friday ex-con dog blogging

Plan would limit ex-cons' ownership of certain dogs:
Pet's weight, breed or history might determine legality

Contra Costa District Attorney Robert Kochly wants to he'd like to keep some convicts from owning certain breeds, including pit bulls.

Eric Sakach, the Humane Society's West Coast director, said

...he could support the probation idea only if the convicts weren't allowed to own any dogs -- large or small, pit bull or poodle.

"Any dog can be used as a weapon. If (convicts) can't take care of themselves, I have grave concerns about whether they can take responsibility for the proper care of a dog."

Wasn't it Pat Benetar who said, "You know you're already on probation / Stop using dogs as a weapon"? I agree with the humane sentiment, yet somehow I think a poodle would not mess you up nearly as much as a Presa Canario (unless it was one of those wolf-poodle hybrids).

May 26, 2005

The gambler

In court this morning I saw a guy counting through a large roll of U.S. currency while waiting for his case to be called. Maybe the judge saw him too.

I think it was the legal philospher Kenny Rogers who once stated,
"You never count your money when you're sitting in the courtroom. /
There'll be time enough for counting when the deal is done."

May 25, 2005

The Sandy

"Fun-loving, kitschy, irreverent and smart"?

Surely Blondie has blogged about this:

Actor Peter Gallagher Presents OC-inspired Public Defender Fellowship

Gallagher presented the Sandy Cohen Public Defender Fellowship (nicknamed “The Sandy”) to help support a Boalt student pursuing an unpaid summer internship in that public service field. The fellowship was created by the OC at Boalt, and this year, Gallagher donated $2,000 to the fellowship, and FOX Broadcasting Company donated another $1,000...

This year's recipient, Ronnie Lin '07... “I'm a little more nervous than during our mock court arguments,” confessed Lin, who will work this summer in the San Francisco Public Defender's Office.

Hey, didn't I just see this guy somewhere?

May 24, 2005

Magnanimous musings, reasonable rants

GentleEleos, a public defender with more than her fair share on her plate, professionally and personally, gives good advice while managing to avoid the hectoring tone of that other p.d. rant that's been going around:

Open Note to Clients and Potential Clients

Message to my clients

Go over to her site some time and wish her well.

May 23, 2005

Chief P.D. to judges: micromanage me!

Another morale-builder for the colleagues at the Pima County (AZ) public defenders office:

Judges asked for critique of attorneys: A new public defender submits a list of 17 areas in which to judge the work of attorneys before the county's Superior Court.

Judges are being asked to evaluate attorneys on ethics and integrity, interaction with the judge and other attorneys, creativity and imagination, management of court appearances, courtroom demeanor and appearance, strategy and tactics, trial skills, voir dire..., opening statements, direct examinations, cross examinations, use of evidence law and objections, motion practice and hearings, effectiveness of presentations, jury instructions, final arguments and quality of judgments.

Yes, their bosses are inviting judges to do this. Top management would be in the courtroom making these evaluations themselves, if they weren't so busy getting custom-fitted shirts and inter-personal skills training. Perhaps next in the pipeline will be a public defender popularity contest, to be voted on by prosecutors and cops. That'll motivate them!

May 22, 2005


Yeoman links to two thought-provoking subjects.

The most recent is a link to this essay from Stay of Execution titled "Legal Lies," which Yeoman calls "The single best commentary on the nature of legal education ever written".

Ethical Esquire's David Giacalone responds to "Legal Lies" with a fairly thorough-going rebuttal, as well as more links and suggestions for further reflection.

I approach this back-and-forth from the perspective of someone who knew going in that the sort of law I wanted to do in the future wasn't going to pay worth a damn, and made my choices as to law school and financial aid accordingly. On the other hand, there's a colleague for whom I have great esteem, with a great heart and a working-class background, half-Appalachian, half-Polish-American, who couldn't have become a lawyer without incurring a ton of student debt, and yet went for Legal Services, not for the big bucks. He would like the other post from Yeoman, part of a series on social class in the New York Times, which links to a good story about Della Justice, a lawyer who came up from poverty in East Kentucky, and now works to straddle both worlds. The article from the New York Times requires registration; the article from does not:

While most of her work week is devoted to commercial law, Justice spends Mondays in family court, representing families with the kind of problems hers had. She bristles whenever she runs into any hint of class bias, or the presumption that poor people in homes heated by kerosene or without enough bedrooms cannot be good parents.

Which leads me to one last link to this reflection prompted by that public defender rant from Craigslist: How do you rescue these kids...

May 21, 2005


From a lawyer-poet in New Hampshire:

Twenty Incontrovertible Truths About the American Criminal Justice System, From Someone Who Knows and Has No Interest in Lying to You About It: A Criminal Defense Attorney Tells All About the Most Misunderstood Institution in the Whole of America

You know what they say about lawyer-poets:
"Every lawyer carries inside the wreckage of a poet."
(Chaque notaire porte en soi les débris d’un poète)
- Flaubert, M. Bovary

I admire any colleague who can toss off a paragraph like this:

Asking a public defender whether he ever grows weary of defending the guilty is like smearing his ass with peanut butter: it's unlikely to please him--being so imposed upon--unless he has a predilection for masochism and/or a strong affinity for jams which are both sticky and inescapable.

I think I'm going to enjoy following this guy's blog.

P.S. : ...and not just because he too never found a way to better incorporate his love of radio into his professional career as a trial attorney. (in high school at the end of the seventies, when standards were much looser, I was on KBSU in the slot they couldn't get college students to volunteer for, Sunday Concert Hall 6am to 10am, then in college I handled the board intermittently at KCID, on "the corner where the world turns" (backwards, because if the big globe on top of the station turned forward, it would spell D-I-C-K...))

May 19, 2005

Alaskablawg: it's tundra-rific!

The hours of daylight are definitely increasing up in Seward's Folly:

Alaskablawg has posted one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine entries in one day!

Welcome, confused googlers!

* My first visitor from the Islamic Republic of Iran, looking for information on chaos theory, and instead finding a want ad for a new chief public defender ("Prior experience in cat herding, groveling, and choas theory desirable").

* Someone looking for 14-year-olds, but probably not for these ones.

* A questing soul seeking an answer - "Can you be a Christian lawyer?" - only to wind up at this blog! I hope the seeker moved on to the next item on Google: Whether Lawyers, Too, Can Be Saved. Short answer - yes:

The same holds true with representing criminal defendants — even those the lawyer knows to be guilty. The ideal of blind justice in an oak and marble courtroom ends up, in reality, to be more like Frank Purdue's chicken factory: nameless defendants get stamped and processed in an assembly line, dispatched according to a formula that pays as little attention to their stories as possible. The defense attorney, if she has the time and energy given huge caseloads, can give that defendant a name, respect, and attention, defense where appropriate, and properly tailored sanctions if a plea. Personal connection — a humane solidarity — can be the richest form of servant ministry.

* And to the hordes dropping by from CrimLaw lately, welcome, and thank you, Ken.

Update: well, pin a rose on my nose - today the blog made it to 50,000 unique visitors!

I swear

A pro se defendant here took the stand this week. When the prosecutor on cross asked, "What do you think of telling lies?", the pro se guy replied,

"I abhor lying. I would rather sandpaper a bobcat's behind in a phone booth before I would tell a lie."

(This is after the prosecution's evidence showing pro se guy's prior use of an alias.)

May 18, 2005

Salute to veteran public defenders

Tributes here to some fine old lions who have fought the good fight and finished their course:

Bill Laswell, Fort Lauderdale, FL, "patron saint of hopeless legal cases."

Public defender investigator Wayne Dickens, Asheville, NC.

And from nearer to my homeland, I should have mentioned this remarkable lawyer from Zion much sooner: John Christiansen, Beaver, UT.

Finally, Pete Partee, Greenville, SC:

"You don't get flowers and candy when you're the public defender," Partee says of a job that often put him at odds with the general public. "The public defender's job is a real ministry."

"You get a letter one day telling you they want to kill your client," Partee says, referring in general to the cases where the prosecution seeks the death penalty. "Someone once asked me if every case I took was important. I knew that to my clients, it was usually the most important case they ever had."

Thank you all, gentlemen. Thanks to Public Defender Investigator and Indefensible for the links.

Bonus link goes to sheet music for Si Kahn's "People Like You":

Old fighter, you sure took it on the chin
Where'd you ever get the strength to stand?
Never giving up or giving in
You know I just want to shake your hand
Because people like you help people like me go on

May 17, 2005

That "should p.d.'s be blogging?" meme

What to leave in, what to leave out...

Clarence Gideon has this pretty well covered. Meanwhile, thanks to some single variable analysis at On Firm Ground, now all the civil lawyer bloggers think of me as one of the sad kids in black. I promise you, if I were to get morose over something, this blog or not to blog issue wouldn't be it. (cue judge / prosecutor / client saying, "I'll give you something to be morose about!")

In the meantime, Mr. Brightside is interviewing with a public defenders office in Southern California this week. Do you think that they might ask him about his one of his blog entries? The old "how can you defend the child murderer" rhetorical question. Brights thinks only a true believer or a mercenary can do it, but he presupposes that the lawyer is going to have to stand before a jury arguing the client's innocence. I'm not familiar with the particulars of the case, but I know a little bit about lawyering in similar tough spots. Think "mitigation," Brightsides, think "penalty phase," think "making the case for life." Better yet, think "negotiating the hell out of the D.A. to get them to drop the death penalty in exchange for a plea." Good luck with the hypos in your job interview, mister.

May 15, 2005

Florida p.d. cleared of contempt

Remember our p.d. brother Thomas Mote?

Seems like the judge took it back:

A public defender jailed for two days after a judge found his behavior in contempt has been cleared of the charge by the same judge.

He got back his good name, but not before seeing it turned into a verb:

"If you keep that up," (an) Orange Circuit Judge... told a pair of arguing lawyers in his courtroom, "I'm going to Mote you."

More details from the Orlando Sentinel: Strange tale of courtroom conflict ends: Clash of courtroom personalities ends with a whimper.

May 13, 2005

Playing possum

"Other peoples' problems, they overwhelm my mind.
They say compassion is a virtue, but I don't have the time."

Yes, I've seen this. Yes, I see that you have too. Other weeks I'd leave it at, damn that's funny and yes, that's true, but this week I'm adding, whoa, somebody's having trouble with the whole sublimating-rage-against-the-clients thing. Where do other p.d.'s and I come by being so angry? The public-pretender thing, it just rolls off by now. And it's not my freedom that's being taken. Of the two of us in the jail visiting booth, at the end of the conversation I'm the one who gets to leave and go home. But there it it is, a raft of negativity from attorney-client relationships. I still don't have a handle on the emotions this job conjures up. Still, I've got to give the Craigslist writer some solidarity. It can be a healthy form of venting, converting frustration into black humor. It's better than watching our clients compound their mistakes and feeling nothing at all; "the more you suffer, the more it shows you really care, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Well, I care, but I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and immobilized. Here am I in my new p.d. office going on four months now. This is the chapter in travel books which falls between the time after the euphoria of arrival has faded, and before the traveller has acquired any sense of competence in his new surroundings. Since arriving I've been laying low when I can, hanging back and observing, and trying to figure out as much as I can before commenting, for as the "Dances with Clams" commercial put it, "he is a newcomer, and unfamiliar with our ways - soon he will be eating at Ivar's" (though really, Spud has better fish-n-chips).

Somehow, in the past weeks I haven't felt much like writing. This post by AmbImb, about whether or not to blog about a summer p.d. internship, and the general sussing and scolding tone of most of the comments in response, have set me to thinking about this blog and the ways that it ebbs and flows. Lately it's been ebbing more than flowing. Consciously or not, I've been posting less personal material, or at least less material directly connected to my dealings with my clients in and out of court. In its place, more and more links to stories of p.d. and client foibles, like this one:

An Arizona couple is in the Ada County Jail accused of taking a $37 cashiers check, forging a new figure of $317,000 and attempting to use it to buy a new $300,000 Meridian home... Kathy Lynn Jean, 42, and Robby Joe Jean, 39, moved furniture into the home... over the weekend before they were arrested at the home Tuesday..., Boise police detective Wade Spain said. "I don't really have a clue how they thought they could get away with it," Spain said. "It's just totally odd. I guess they thought they were smooth talkers and could get away with it."

Objectively speaking, and I think polling data would bear me out on this, this sort of human-foibles post has more entertainment value than the alternative:

Damn, I am tired of condescension and superiority from prosecutors, particularly from the sort who would accidentally hit a button on his laptop, turning on his PowerPoint presentation during a private defense lawyer's closing argument, and splashing the word GUILTY on the big screen (literally) behind the lawyer's back. Damn, I am tired of second-guessing and distrust from clients, particularly from the sort who commit offenses in the double digits putting themselves in danger of doing 120 months or more, who reject an offer of 90 months to serve and instruct me to go back and ask for one year, who end up getting a stipulated exceptional sentence, below the standard range, of 60 months, and who are convinced that their lawyer screwed them over.

I hope that I get the hang of this new jurisdiction soon. Some aspects of criminal defense are not universal after all, and I have a new respect for lawyers who can move easily between two alien worlds: Washington and Idaho, say, or state and federal court, I imagine. It's like struggling to come up with the Spanish word for something, and remembering only the French word. It's like that recurring dream from old times where I sat down to take the bar exam and it was printed in Arabic. I misunderestimated this challenge. When I watch some of the private contract lawyers in court rattling off mid-ranges and acronyms like they've memorized the entire sentencing guidelines manual and two volumes of the Revised Code, I wonder exactly what sociology experiment my new boss was conducting to hire me over them.

"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

So you see my conundrum, especially in this town where harshing another's mellow is a gross misdemeanor. Any reason why this blog should reflect my discouragement, except by omission? Perhaps some things are better left unblogged. AmbImb is right to be concerned, as are others, about how many work-day details to put on-line. Just one example: I blogged my last trial before I moved, and without intending to, I alienated the one district judge who treated me with respect, and who I never would have considered disrespecting. Why do that? At the same time, if the law job is important as it is to me, then I'm going to blog about it, else what's a blawg for? I'm not quite inclined to adopt the advice to avoid blogging about work, which is kind of a hard discipline to maintain in a blog that is primarily about work.

Consequently, I think I may just have to suck up my ambivalence about blogging the job and muddle forward. And there is that sweet colorable suppression issue that popped right out in a client interview this morning that I'll get to work on (car passenger, driver's arrested on a warrant, no warrants on my guy, gets handed a citation for no seatbelt, not arrested, asks if he can cross the street to make a phone call, cop tells him words to the effect of, 'no, you can't leave, I haven't searched you yet').

I need to get back on this horse - just don't snicker too loud as I haul my big ass up on the saddle.

Bonus link: Bah! If you've gotten this far, this from Injustice Anywhere will restore your spirits.

May 09, 2005

Artful dodgers

Last night the boy and I started watching "Oliver!", so this morning it seemed altogether fitting that the Twin Falls paper is running a series about some of the unheralded heroes of the criminal justice system: bail bondsmen. It features one of my favorite bond agents, Jack Green, and one of my favorite all-around characters, Charlie Legg:

"Most of our clients who pawned, we've bonded, so we had an established relationship," (Jennifer Legg) said.

My friend and fellow P.D. Jack Meredith (now P.D.'ing in Harrisburg, PA) once noted that even Charlie Legg's name is like something out of Charles Dickens.

May 05, 2005

" so high, I scratched 'til I bled..."

So, I should be glad that my old next-door neighbor didn't take this class?

In-Class Meth Demonstration Angers Parents
(with video):

Grays Harbor County sheriff's deputy: "And the reaction will start occurring down there and start bubbling up."

It is part chemistry class and part drug enforcement as a member of the Grays Harbor drug task force talks to Elma High School students about making Methamphetamine.

Deputy shows class: "Then you'll have a little bit down at the bottom, the white stuff, and that's your meth."

(link via Misc Media by Clark Humphrey, who states, "In Cobain-Land, the authorities apparently believe they're helping the kids by teaching 'em how to make their own meth.")

Have a little faith

A new criminal defense blog is starting up: Matthew 25.

You remember Matthew 25 perhaps? Remember, "I was in prison and you visited me"?

Go over and introduce yourself. I think that there may be a few more resources out there than this new blogger realizes.

May 04, 2005

Ex-P.D. leaves San Berdoo a bit early

Now an update, of sorts.

Ex-public defender opts to leave deputy post early (may require registration):

John Roth, the San Bernardino County public defender demoted in February after hiring a lawyer with a criminal record, has quit his job with the county... Roth has accepted a similar post in Sacramento County...

Roth, a veteran local defense lawyer and a former supervisor in his office, became the public defender in June 2000...

Roth was put on administrative leave in January after he hired Geoffrey Newman, a private lawyer who had been convicted on misdemeanor charges related to soliciting inmates to hire certain bail-bond firms...

Newman was fired Jan. 27, four days after starting work.

Roth accepted a lesser position as a deputy public defender in February and was to remain until his retirement, then scheduled for October.

The man had some accomplishments to his name before his misstep. Perhaps he's leaving in his own time with a bit of his dignity intact, perhaps it took him just this long to line up a new job. I'm not unsympathetic.

Don't fence me in

In the middle of teaching Democrats and aspiring comics how to say the word "ain't", Kung Fu Monkey gets off a pretty funny drive-by smirk at my homeland:

One of the great shocks as a road comic is that every audience is as smart as you are... That's why I loved the road. It renewed your faith in humanity's wondrous variety and intelligence.

There were, of course, exceptions. There are sections of Idaho, for example, that ought to be fenced off for everyone's good.

May 03, 2005

Victim's advocate one day, villain the next

An Idaho woman once held up as a crusader against domestic violence has been indicted in a case that involves "meth, death and many unanswered questions".

Barbara Dehl, 49, was held Friday in the Ada County Jail. This past week, a grand jury indicted her on two felony counts of kidnapping and one count of trafficking stark contrast to Dehl's life five years ago, when she stood with teary eyes next to Republican Gov. Dirk Kempthorne as he signed a law named after Dehl's deceased daughter, Cassandra Dehl.

Dehl helped persuade the Legislature in 2000 to pass "Cassie's Law"...which extends domestic abuse protections to teenagers trapped in violent relationships. She testified in front of the U.S. Congress on issues of dating violence and served on the National Advisory Committee on Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking. In 2003, her role on the panel brought her face to face with President Bush as he announced a new initiative to combat abuse.

According to court records, Dehl talked to an undercover officer at length about her involvement in "Cassie's Law" while negotiating a price for a ounce of meth...

In a small-world detail, Barbara Dehl's court-appointed attorney is a law school and First Communion classmate of mine, Joe Ellsworth.

Keeping their own counsel for five years, the family of Cassandra Dehl's ex-boyfriend now write that the arrest reveals the true Barbara Dehl.

What a wicked web. Better to hesitate a bit before draping the mantle of moral superiority over one party or another in any story of crime.

(link via Professor Chin at Crim Prof Blog)

A jury trial in Virginia

Ken Lammers is an excellent criminal defense lawyer, and he had the law and the facts on his side going in to his latest trial.

Three guesses how it turned out.

May 02, 2005

Help is on the way!

Left2Right has taken up our cause, and put out the call for help with our burgeoning p.d. caseloads:

The Public Defenders' Sweatshop

Yeah, that'll bring out the waves of new p.d. recruits! To think that I spent six years in management trying to promote my office to recent law school grads / job applicants as "The Trial Lawyers' Playground..."

(scroll through the comments too: an interesting blend of informed commentators, uninformed (but still entitled to their opinion) commentators, and borderline trolls)

And that crack about

"the dreadfully-overworked bleary-eyed revolving-door appearance of such a counsel"?

Hey, I resemble that remark! (perhaps it's time to replace my couturier, Ross Dressforless, with this guy's tailor.)

May 01, 2005

P.D.'s and the social gospel

Thanks to Technorati for these two thoughts on a Sunday.

Donzelion: "Consider: who better reflects a Christian model than a criminal defense attorney, sacrificing heart, soul, time, reputation - even for the unlovable, guilty human beings?"

Social Gospel Today: "I would say that the public defender reflects a Christian model even better than the private criminal defense attorney. She does all of the above things and additionally sacrifices salary (and more reputation) in order to defend the poor."

p.s.: It's Easter Sunday for some of my Brčko colleagues - ХРИСТОС ВАСКРЕСЕ! ВАИСТИНУ ВАСКРСЕ!