August 31, 2005

ID: nice guy finishes first

Congratulations to my friend Roger Harris, Twin Falls County conflicts public defender, and as of today, new Twin Falls County magistrate judge.

Between former chief public defender Judge Casey Robinson in Gooding, former IACDL lifetime member Judge Randy Stoker in Twin, and now the Honorable Roger Harris, it would seem that a criminal defense background is not a bar to taking the bench in the Magic Valley. Good for them.

MT: millions against meth

One California-based billionaire must know something about money, and must know that meth isn't a myth, else why would he be plowing so much money into fighting it?

Here is the Montana Meth Network, thanks to the generosity of Tom Seibel, a "software mogul" and Montana property owner.

Here's a companion site geared toward teenagers and young adults.

Link via New West Network.

The old ball and chain

If you mess with the miscreants in my county, you run the risk of one of them getting all medieval on your ass:

Metal ball and chain injures Lacey man - Victim sets fire to suspect's vehicle to distract him

Sheriff's detectives Tuesday were investigating an early morning fight in which one man struck another man with a metal ball and chain.

Despite having his arm broken, the victim set fire to the suspect's car... The victim, a 37-year-old Lacey man, used the car fire as a distraction to drive to a pay phone and called 9-1-1 about 1:15 a.m., the Thurston County sheriff's office reported.

No one had been arrested, Chief Criminal Deputy Dan Kimball said. Investigators had not recovered the medieval-like weapon, described as a metal ball attached to a chain...

"I can't remember the last case I saw where someone was alleged to have been assaulted by a ball and chain," Kimball said. "On the other hand, nothing surprises me."

The storm is passing over

Keep a positive thought for Raymond, Ernie, and other colleagues in the wake of the storm.

A Hurricane Katrina aid wiki has started here.


Trying to keep a client out of Parchman (Mississippi State Prison) is stressful enough, but for John Helmert, Katrina made it that much more difficult... Helmert, one of three public defenders in Lee County, was trying a case involving a young man... charged with felony malicious mischief....

Despite the trial, Helmert also was wondering about his relatives on the coast. "If you hear anything about another Helmert, a detective on the Biloxi Police Department, let me know," Helmert asked a reporter during a recess. "That's my brother. He's the only Helmert down there."

"You'll love Twin Falls so much, you'll feel like jumping off a bridge!"

... but, please, use a parachute:

Idaho town becomes mecca for bridge jumping

Actually, this was an aspect of the old Idaho live-and-let-live philosophy that I got a kick out of while living in Twin, but it was unnerving the first few times to be driving over the Perrine Bridge just as someone was jumping off.

August 30, 2005

It's gaijin-rific!

This is so cool!
(you might have to click on "翻訳中...")

Try it yourself!

(link via visitor from Japan)

Cultural exchange

A partner in a large San Francisco firm has been "loaned" to the San Francisco Public Defender's office, and is blogging the experience:

...I see this same client rummaging through the trash. My split-second decision was to walk straight past her without making eye contact in case Ms. Hyde was out. I'm almost past her when she calls out "are you my lawyer?" I thought about lying, but decided I had to stop and say yes. Thankfully she seemed to be on her meds that day. Instead of threatening me, she told me that she had completed 8 of her 25 hours of counseling...

Mutual opportunities for learning and growth here.

Magical thinking strikes again

To the list of great expectations, e.g., that victims or eye-witnesses will recant once they're on the witness stand, add this one:

- the person (drug owner, phantom driver) who really did the crime (owned the drugs, drove the car) will come forward and take responsibility so I won't have to do the time.

Number of times this has worked in my career: once (Canyon County, Idaho, 1997, our witness in a jury trial for felony driving without privileges)

Number of times my clients have left decent plea bargains on the table thanks to this expectation, and seen things go much worse at sentencing: I don't have that many fingers and toes

(Aside apropos of nothing: there was a long time when you could get a felony conviction in Idaho for driving with a suspended license - really good use of prison space there. I had one guy go to the yard on a DWP; unfortunately, he told the judge that his probation plan was to go to truck-driving school.)

August 29, 2005

WA: extra-judicial execution

Not asking you to embrace child molesters here. To this extent, this post is about protecting chimos: nobody has the right to kill them.

Two men shot to death at a Bellingham apartment building were Level III sex offenders, police confirmed today. The men were identified by police as Hank Eisses, 49, and Victor Vasquez, 68, both convicted child rapists.

Police are looking for a man who may have posed as an FBI agent to gain access to their apartment. A roommate who found the bodies says the man wore a blue jumpsuit and a cap with the FBI, and said he wanted to talk to the men about their status as sex offenders...

The fake FBI agent told the three roommates that one of them was on a "hit list" on an Internet site, according to the police.

Just how much did mandatory sex offender registration help this murderer commit this crime?

: Gideon and TalkLeft are talking about this vigilante violence toward sex offenders.

August 28, 2005

Greetings from Tokeland

This weekend we went to Tokeland, WA.

It was beautimous, and strangely, not a sign of hemp did I see.

Update 08/29/05: "Dude, We missed you at OlyHempFest! Did you know that hemp can be used to make houses, and fuel, and... uh, rope...?"

Lighting a candle for Minor Wisdom

Keep a good thought for Raymond P. Ward, who may or may not have ridden this one out in New Orleans.

Katrina's bearing down, and his thoughts are for Darfur. He is a decent man.

Update 08/29/05: he got out.

P.D. job seeker tip

If you were blogging and looking for a job, wouldn't it occur to you that your future employer might know how to search the Internets?

Maybe I'm just unkind. But I care - I really do... about the potential public defender clients who could get assigned to this person. In the future, if you're applying for other public defender jobs, you might want to avoid posts like this (or at least not leave them lying around in public places where busy-bodies like me can find them and share them):

I have an interview with the public defenders coming up. I WILL NOT botch it this time. I WILL NOT waffle on anything: they ask me how long I can commit for, I'll say 5 years without saying "how long do you need me for?". They say what division sounds best for you and I'll say juvenile (because it does) but that they all sound interesting and I can see myself being happy anywhere... And goddess help me if they make me do another role play...but no tears! no fucking tears! I am stable!

Okay: I am totally with you, blogger, on the subject of role-playing! However, while it gives the rest of us great insight into the mind of one person trying to get a p.d. job, you might not want to share that much with the person across the hiring table. On the other hand, if they surf the Net at the place you're applying, you may have made the hiring person's decision a bit easier.

August 27, 2005

Kids these days

Ask-a-Lawyer gets a bit ticked off with a questioner who's trying to help 'a friend' minimize the consequences of using a toy gun to rob a cab driver:

... you so off-handedly refer to the “play gun” and the eight dollars that your friend and his accomplice stole from their victim as if the fact that the gun was “only” a toy, and that they “only” got eight dollars from the robbery somehow mitigates what they did. Are you kidding me? Your friend may have known it was a “play gun,” but I’m guessing he didn’t clue the victim into that fact.

August 26, 2005

New former - p.d. blogger

Welcome Brother Trichrome.

He has criminal defense on the brain. Exhibit 1:

"This is what a police stop looks like when you reenact it with Playmobile."

Cool concept - sort of a criminal defense lawyer photo blog. Hope it keeps coming.


On the Huffington Post, Harry Shearer joins the Jack Shafer meth-myth parade, with a self-satisfied snicker at methamphetamine abuse. The comments chew his infotainment ass; some of them highlight the regional and class-based bias behind the smart-assed denials of other peoples' struggles with this drug:

"Overhyped? I live in the subcultured Ohioian acres of cornfields where these meth-heads are found. You comedians must love all of the material we give you, but it isn't funny watching your neighborhood turn to shit and having hollywood spoof it as a fucking joke."

"As a worker in the prevention field, it's quite obvious that the author knows a lot about the tendancy of the media to over-hype, but very little about meth and its highly addictive qualities. Here in Nebraska, it's a huge problem. It is ruining families, overloading the social services agencies, causing huge environmental difficulties, and are costing millions in local law enforcement dollars, not to mention untold man power hours. I see it EVERY SINGLE DAY, and when I go home, I see it in the children that my wife and I provide foster care for. At best, the author needs to educate himself about this drug and its long reaching ripple effects."

"Well, I'm certainly glad you clever folks have figured out that the media tends to over-dramatize and sensationalize their stories, but if you don't think meth is a serious and epidemic problem, all I can say is I want to come live with you in your neighborhood. Just because journalists are approaching this story in a hackneyed and lazy way doesn't mean we should be dismissive or glib about it."

Good on them. One sentence of first-hand information about meth is more valuable than a month's worth of Jack Shafer smirk and Harry Shearer snark.

Gracias a Dios y a DOSA

Today I am grateful for the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA), which will give my client half the incarceration time he was facing after trial, with the second half to be served in the community and in recovery. A wonderful outcome if he can stay clean and motivated.

Even if my client's PRP (personal restraint petition) is coming, and I know it is, because we discussed how to file it, today I am relieved and happy.

And I confess (to you, my brothers and sisters): I didn't think that my client would get it, but the judge thought otherwise.

DP P.D. turns teacher

A good man leaves the ranks to teach Latin:

Robert Lominack became a defense attorney to help people. But starting this year, he’s trying to help before they end up in a lawyer’s office.

The 32-year-old lawyer traded the courtroom for the classroom — along with about a 50 percent pay cut. He teaches Latin..., far away from his work on high-profile death-penalty cases in South Carolina.

“I just got burned out,” Lominack said. "It’s a tough job. It’s one that if you can’t put 100 percent into it, you’ll do more harm than good."

The towering workload wasn’t the problem."It was emotionally draining because your clients were in such a terrible place in their lives," he said.

"I know that feeling, and when you're trying to defend somebody from the death penalty who has committed a horrible crime, part of that job requires a painstaking re-creation of that person's life,"” (David) Bruck said. "And you often see a point when things could have turned out differently if someone had cared about them a little more."

"That weighed heavily on Robert,"” Bruck said. "“I think he thought that person could be him."

Indeed, Lominack said his clients' childhoods made a huge impact on him.

Lominack found that one of his clients was homeless as a child. Teachers learned of the situation and provided him with clothing, bedding and food.

"“They were nice to him when nobody else was,"” Lominack said.

The same could be said of this good servant. Ave atque vale.

Link via Capital Defense Weekly.

Friday new haircut boy blogging

English Springer Spaniel:

Before - and after.

August 25, 2005

We're like divorce lawyers, see

Interesting advice and discussion on Yahoo Groups' Criminallaw:

Public Defenders get very bad reviews from clients and most of it is undeserved. They are, in a sense, like divorce lawyers - even after the lawyer has done a good job, the client still feels unsatisfied.

In my experience, public defenders have at least two advantages over private counsel, one is that they generally know the judges in their jurisdiction and can sort of predict what any particular judge will do, and they also work day in and day out with the district attorneys so they can often "shmooze" a good deal out of one, particularly when their client is apparently guilty of at least some of the charges against him.

People rarely value services that are given for free or cheap, and if they have some funds they'll plunk down a big retainer to a "street lawyer" who will then often call someone in the public defender's office to get advice on which judge is best and how to deal with a particular DA.

Well, there you are. And yes, I have had the experience of having a client's family hire a "real lawyer," only to have that real lawyer call me up later for free advice. If you've been a p.d. for a while, you have, too.

But I'm cool with that, honest! If they can afford a private lawyer, they don't need me. Some times it helps the client and the case to have a paid lawyer come in, and I try to remember to think kind thoughts when their private lawyer gets the same deal that I had worked out.

Most of the time things do work out, and client and family are only out the money for the retainer. What sucks is to sit in court and watch one of my ex-clients get a worse outcome with the new lawyer. I get no satisfaction out of seeing them fall.

Cops to the left, cops to the right

Over-vigorous law enforcement: at last, one issue to unite people who go to raves and people who go to gun shows.

Scary stuff.

(Tell John Law and his ATF friends, the day when they combine raves and gun shows is still a long ways off.)

August 24, 2005

UK colleague

This is good: Diary of a Criminal Solicitor

Eventually after I managed to convince the Magistrates to remand my Client in custody the Client turned to me, waved, and mouthed, "Thank you".

(link via CrimLaw)

Hippocratic oath, approaching edge of

Let me just start by saying that every day in every way, I try to live by the code of the Public Defender Blogger:
first, do no harm.

The ideal is that one will strive to keep one's client uppermost in dignity and respect, and say or do nothing to cut the client down or hold the client in a bad light (except maybe intra-p.-d.-office, or to a trusted spouse, loved one, or pet) (and because I suspicion that the odd local prosecutor checks out this site now and then).

That being said, can I just say that I really need to vent about this last client I dealt with?


(Nothing to see here; that is all.)

GA p.d. keeps his job, for now

Griffin, GA Chief Public Defender Arthur English will keep his job despite his Aug. 18 arrest for theft and fraud charges.

But if the 30-year-old Barnesville resident is convicted of the felony theft charges he faces, English will lose his job...

Meanwhile, a special solicitor... will determine if English will face a misdemeanor vehicular homicide charge for the March 11 death of Hiram Daniel Jr.

WA: lawyer charged for trying to reach client

Kennewick, WA authorities have filed a misdemeanor charge against defense attorney Jim Egan for his attempts to contact a client during a double homicide investigation.

Egan, a longtime Tri-Cities attorney, is charged with obstructing a police officer. He has pleaded not guilty in Benton County District Court.

"I don't think I'm guilty of anything," Egan said. Attorney Todd Harms is representing Egan.

August 23, 2005

Stupid is as stupid does

Jack Shafer of Slate admits that he doesn't know everything about meth:

... I ridiculed as "stupid" this news story... about "meth heads" who... "sit in the bush with hundreds of parts just fiddling with them all day." Proving that I, too, should search the medical literature before cracking jokes about meth coverage, I received a polite e-mail... inform(ing) me of the neurological concept of "punding," the restless and repetitive assembling and disassembling of mechanical devices (watches, carburetors, radios), the obsessive lining-up of small objects, or the picking at one's own skin.

That was a joke? Predictable of Shafer to have called "stupid" that which he doesn't understand. "Punding." A good word to add to my vocabulary, as in "I have clients and neighbors who go in for punding stereos and lawn-mowers."

But, to give the old devil his due, it's decent of Jack Shafer to give some credit to some journalists who really do know more about meth than he does...

... don't, don't, don't write a column inch on the subject before you read the Oregonian's comprehensive methamphetamine package from head to toe. That's not a blanket endorsement of the Oregonian's work, but it's close. Steve Suo and the other Oregonian journalists who worked on it are intellectually honest and intrepid reporters... Suo disputes critics who say the extent of meth use has been overstated...

... even if it took Shafer twelve days to link to Suo's critique. If you're at all interested in this subject, you ought to check Suo out.

(Regular A&C readers (you, you, that other p.d., and the one prosecutor who's been lurking) already know about this great Oregonian series, because I shared it with you back in February.)

News from criminal court: life is hard

A slice-of life article with a fairly odd tone in The Oregonian takes pity on a BigLaw attorney turned prosecutor who has fallen down the rabbit hole:

Since he'd resigned from Stoel, he had sensed private-practice attorneys treating him differently. The unspoken assumption was that the smartest lawyers end up in private firms, not making $49,500 at the Multnomah County district attorney's office.

In his old life, he ate at the best restaurants, took European vacations and served on civic boards. As a rookie assistant DA assigned to Misdemeanor Row, Stanford made $80,000 less a year, worked out of a cramped office, handled the most minor of crimes and grabbed lunch from street vendors.

The complexities of the criminal justice system still confused him. He was discovering a world tinted by shades of gray rather than the black and white he'd expected...

As Jeremy Irons said, "You have no idea..."

August 22, 2005

Idaho: there goes the neighborhood

George W. Bush is in my home state tonight, and as another perplexed Idaho blogger said, "Of all places he could stay in Idaho he chose Donnelly."

Not every Idahoan is rushing to welcome the president, just as not every Idahoan welcomed Tamarack, formerly known as WestRock, formerly known as ValBois.

I think I might have an inkling why he headed to Tamarack instead of Payette Lake, or Redfish, or Alturas, or Sandpoint, or Priest Lake or Victor or Ketchum or any number of other lovelier Idaho spots. Tamarack's developer once said, “Skiing by itself has a tinge of the masses. When you’re skiing, you’re always with crowds... Tamarack is an attempt to change that vision and have essentially a boutique resort with a private club, limiting the number of skiers.” Not exactly the Idaho philosophy of life (and of public lands) that I grew up with, but a fine fit for Dear Leader.

Donnelly's nice. Myself, I think that it, with the rest of Valley County, was a better place before Tamarack, but as one of my best friends - a guy with long-time family property on the same side of Cascade Reservoir as Tamarack, a guy who ran for Congress in Idaho as a Democrat, poor devil - anyway, as he said, "the saddest thing you'll ever see is when a mill shuts down." That's just what happened down the road from Donnelly, in the town of Cascade. It was closed by Boise Cascade Corporation, my dad's employer when I was growing up farther down the road in Boise.

So Valley County people need jobs, and at least there are jobs tending the golf course and the second and third homes at Tamarack. I hope that not too much weed-and-feed runs off the grass; Cascade Reservoir's had quite a recent history of algae blooms and cultural eutrophication, and can get a little stinky. One year, in 1993, 22 cows died from drinking water from the reservoir. This year, I'm pretty sure that the Secret Service has cordoned off the cows.

So I hope that W. enjoys his first visit to Idaho, and to the future of Idaho that Tamarack embodies. As for me, some days I look back to the mountains of home and think, all that is solid melts into air, all that is sacred is profaned...

8/23/05: Dude stole my headline! From the AP - There Goes the Neighborhood

Salute to p.d. investigators

SanchoVilla, "one of the legion of men and women who pound the pavement looking for evidence that might help exonerate the criminally accused," points the way to this good article about public defender investigators:

They toil to prove that their guys are not the bad guys: Unlike cops, defense investigators start work after the charges are filed, seeking clues to exonerate the accused.

P.D. investigators are good people to know (Hi, Gwen! Hi, Glen!).

A dog story

From the Santa Maria (CA) Times -

An Angel tries to save himself to continue looking after a Bear:

Alone and tethered to a pole, Bear just cried and cried and cried while Angel waited in a courtroom for his fate to be decided... [T]hey heard Bear wail and knew that Angel must be in a jam once again. They collected the broken-hearted beast and secured him in a spot behind the public defender's office where they fed him doggie treats and fresh water while they awaited the verdict...

In common

There's a pensive post on Ambivalent Imbroglio about the motivations of prosecutors and p.d.'s, with one public defender arguing that defenders and prosecutors have absolutely nothing in common, and that "prosecutors are just very evil people w/no feelings."

Well, yes, you can usually find a prosecutor in your area who fits this description, but the majority don't, and AmbImb is right to be skeptical of that p.d.'s claim. In my experience, P.D.'s and prosecutors have more in common than either care to acknowledge. For starters, there's the courtroom, and there's the notion of public service, which AmbImb notes that each define a bit differently, but come to sincerely (again, with the there's - one - in - every - jurisdiction exception). No, if anyone, if any one group of lawyers has nothing in common with p.d.'s, it's more likely to be BigLaw types than prosecutors.

Jeremy Richey weighs in with the always-welcome "image and likeness of G_d" reason for us to defend "those people."


"Morning, Ralph." "Morning, Sam."
- Alaskablawg on the ideal p.d. / prosecutor relationship.

Random Mentality: a reasonable prosecutor addresses this topic.

August 18, 2005

The black hole of Houston

Those misdemeanor guys I heard on the radio yesterday, talking about being forced to sleep without mattresses on the filthy concrete floor of the Harris County jail? Grits for Breakfast is all over the story, and has been tracking the problem of Houston jail overcrowding for a while now. The glimmer of hope is that the powers-that-be seem to be reading his blog. Keep it up, Mr. Henson.

(Link via Injustice Anywhere)

Your toothache is but an illusion

The other week I ran into a former meth client who was at the courthouse paying some fines. My client looked healthy, and I got a hug and a thank you out of the meeting. It was really great to see this client, such a contrast from the scared and spun person of the beginning of the year.

I've had several clients with tell-tale teeth lately, either accused of meth possession, or of the other charges in the meth constellation: theft, burglary, forgery, identity theft. When they've opened their mouths to speak, I've seen the decay and wreckage inside. Man, it must hurt! I've been tempted to comfort them by telling them the good news that meth-mouth is a myth, and that therefore what they see in the mirror and feel in their cavities and gums is a myth, too.

If I did, I bet that they'd pull out of their dull ache quick enough to sock me in the mouth.

By the way, thanks to for identifying a new meth-related malady, Meth Brain, afflicting media critics and the bloggers who parrot them:

The feature that spun Slate editor-at-large Jack Shafer into something more closely resembling a meth user than a media critic was Newsweek’s look at methamphetamine abuse entitled “America’s Most Dangerous Drug”...

Shafer spews data points that show by some measures meth is on the decline... [I]solated numbers lacking the full context can do pretty much anything a writer wishes. The necessary context in this case comes from the most shocking piece of information in a Newsweek article that is brimming with tales of lives thrown away... The sensational aspects... pale next to the revelation that marijuana is the federal government’s top priority, not meth...

Methamphetamine isn’t a recreational drug, and its use can’t be casual. And Shafer further betrays his own ignorance of that when he compares pharmaceutical amphetamine with the bouillabaisse that is being cooked up in bathtubs across the nation. They don’t have the same effects or side-effects, including the psychotic behavior and yes, “meth mouth.”

In calling attention to meth, Newsweek of course was trying to sell magazines. But if their feature wakes up a few parents who think a little weed is all they have to worry about, it’s a bit over the top to spend as many words as were in the original story to take them out to the woodshed.

August 17, 2005

Good news in the courtroom

In court or out, our clients do so much better when people are there for them:

I was in a cramped, crowded hot court room relegated to watching attorneys negotiate people's futures. I was one of seven people - a mother, a public defender, two attorneys from our church, a chaplain, a friend, and his former youth pastor - advocating for, praying for and negotiating to get G**** a chance at life beyond jail. And we did it. We got him his chance.

Great to read that. I hope that G**** makes it. I think that his odds are good, with such decent people there to sustain him.

Meth snark

Hey, Jack Shafer: if meth-mouth is a myth, how come it has its own blog?

Trash-talking harm reduction

A national conference on methamphetamine will convene Friday in Salt Lake, but first it has to go through a ritual political bashing.

Rep. Mark Souder, R-Indiana, wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt:

"I am enormously frustrated with your department for dithering on the meth issue while the rest of America fights an epidemic that is viciously tearing apart families and communities."

"Whatever," former Zion governor Leavitt is rumored to have replied.

Actually, Luciano Colonna, head of the Harm Reduction Project in Salt Lake City and the conference's organizer, had the comeback:

Outraged by what he called the "arrogance and nastiness" of Souder's letter, Colonna said the conference aims to promote collaboration among police agencies, researchers and substance abuse counselors - not to hold up harm reduction as a cure-all...

To make snap judgments about the lectures, delivered by academicians, "is to do a disservice to the 900 people who signed up to attend," said Colonna.

Makes no sense at all

Brother Robert, founder of the Taizé Christian community, was murdered in church while leading prayers. He was 90. Eternal rest grant unto him.

Truth about drugs, with a big grain of salt

My local community radio station carries an interesting and unabashedly slanted show "dedicated to exposing the fraud, misdirection and wastefulness of the 'war on drugs.'"

While I'm a bit of a fellow traveller on this issue, for historical reasons and others, I'm always more than a bit skeptical of any production that carries the word "Truth" in its title: Pravda, for example, or Swiftboat Veterans for Truth.

That said, I give you "Narkomanskaya pradva set' (Наркоманская правда сеть), or, the Drug Truth Network.

Today, for instance, a Canadian marijuana seed seller compared efforts to extradite him to the U.S. to the pogroms under the Tsar.

There was also a pretty unappetizing review by some recent guests of the accomodations at the Houston (Harris County) jail, which I think they compared to the Gulag.

For all that, the show did have was one reliable bit of advice:

"If you're going to commit crimes, using alcohol or drugs will make it easier for you to get caught."

The shows are archived on the website if you wanted to listen for yourself.

Obscure bonus link:
"The Russian Drug Addict's Dictionary" (in Russian only, unfortunately)

August 16, 2005

Bad case of black robe syndrome in NC

In North Carolina, at least, the law solemnly declares:

“It is fundamental to due process that every defendant be tried 'before an impartial judge and an unprejudiced jury in an atmosphere of judicial calm.'”

Posting from that fine state, I Respectfully Dissent presents "This court session was brought to you by the letters O and K", featuring a judge openly and repeatedly dogging a criminal defense lawyer during trial, usually in the hearing of the jury. Note the judge's truly mental reaction every time the defense lawyer would say the word "okay." The trial transcript shows that the prosecutor said O.K. 279 times while defense counsel said it 122 times.

For all that public pummelage, the lawyer's client at least got a new trial. For those sins and others, the judge got censured.

ID: best crime headline of the year

Stolen wiener dogs land pair in prison

This crime story from North Idaho has so much: Meth. False ID. Hurling insults. Trying to fire one's public defender. And "a stolen trio of miniature dachshunds." I hear Mr. Pulitzer calling!

August 15, 2005

CA: some kind of p.d. prodigy

The new Siskiyou County chief public defender is 35, has been practicing for about 14 years, started college at 15 and tried her first felony case when she was 21.

But don't hate her - she sounds cool.

August 14, 2005

WA: swear to tell the woof...

The state Court of Appeals, Division I (the one Seattle's in, not the one that Trevor and I are in) has upheld a poor sot's conviction by turning back a hearsay challenge to the out-of-court 'statement' of a non-human, that is, canine, declarant:

(Keodara)'s challenge to the conviction arises from a police officer's testimony about what a tracking dog's actions 'told' him. However, that testimony did not violate Keodara's right of confrontation because the officer was not relaying a declarant's testimonial statements.

Caveat: DO NOT CITE.

Link via Have Opinion, Will Travel (and nice to see that the judge has returned to blogging, too).

"On your feet, L.A. A good man has passed our way."

From Al Martinez in the Los Angeles Times:

A standing ovation for a gutsy lawyer

There aren't a lot of standing ovations for public defenders, and most of the time hardly any notice at all...

In that kind of assemblage, one has to wonder how Jimmy Mac fit in. He was an ex-con who wore a lime-green suit, irritated judges by calling them by their first name and just barely made it into law in the first place.

His real name was James Alfred MacDonald. He died of cancer not long ago, but even dying he was still practically crawling back to the courthouse to take care of his clients, because they were the kind of people he knew like no one else could. Street people. Losers. They needed him.

A guy like that shouldn't die unnoticed...

August 13, 2005

A negative p.d. internship

Random Girl had a sucky summer:

I feel like I have such trite, snobbish reasons for not wanting to work for the Public Defender:
* They don't make enough money for me to pay off my loans
* There isn't enough room to house the attorneys
* There aren't enough resources for the attorneys to do their job well
* Everyone hates the Public Defenders
* Some of our clients are so despicable that I'd really want the right to say, "I'm sorry, I really can't defend you if THAT'S what you did."

It was a good summer for her, though, in the sense that it's better to figure this out as an intern than as an attorney. Saves her and any potential employer a lot of grief.

An indefensible line-up

Blondie's right: this post by Indefensible's David Feige is really good. Read it.

How not to hit on a lawyer

An alumna of my law school, clerking in Spokane and aspiring to be a p.d., suspects that someone's trying to tell her something:

She: "I am hoping to land a job with a public defender once I am done with my clerkship."

He: "That's cool. I really liked all of my public defenders. So can I get your number?"

August 12, 2005

P.D. summer internships not bogus

The most excellent Ambivalent Imbroglio and Scoplaw are done with their public defender internships, bless their hearts.

August 11, 2005

TBogg on Tierney on meth

TBogg's caught a NY Times columnist slammin' a teener:

Shorter John Tierney:


Check out the comments, too.

Libertarians and hair-trigger tweakers

The dangers of methamphetamine are not all hype. A conservative Boise State University lecturer and recovering libertarian tries to explain it for the freepers:

If meth addicts just made their own decisions--and didn't insist on imposing their moral decisions on others, I wouldn't much care...

...(W)hat makes meth dangerous is that it is a powerful stimulant, and seems to reduce the inhibitions that keep a lot of people from doing horrible things... I shudder to think what this society would be like if meth was as widely abused as alcohol.

The real world doesn't work as well as libertarian theorists would like. I suppose that we shall have to abolish the real world in preference to the theories.

(Cramer has something worthwhile to add to the discussion of meth, despite blogrolling Michelle Malkin)

August 10, 2005

No myth

I'm afraid it might have been better for us and our meth clients when methamphetamine was flying under the national radar.

Now that the stuff is encroaching on the better surburbs of New York and Chicago, for whatever reason or agenda, pundits and opinion-shapers have become vocal and vigorous epidemic deniers.

This dreary and predictable seen-it-all response on the part of Jack Shafer and other is the unfortunate fall-out when, after years of crying "wolf," there really is a wolf.

There is a meth problem, and people's health and families are suffering from it. But who are you going to believe: Slate, or your own lyin' eyes?

As far as the "myth" of "meth mouth," who should you trust? Pundits or dentists?

Bonus link: say it with me - Meth is Bad.

August 09, 2005

Small differences, tyranny of

Today from the witness stand:

"I didn't lie - I fibbed."

And it was my client, on cross.

You really don't need me to tell you how the jury voted, do you?

August 08, 2005

CA: San Berdoo p.d.s need closure

Remember this chief p.d.'s bad personnel debacle?

Six months after they dumped him, the San Berdoo Co. Board of Supes still doesn't have its act together:

The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors began searching for a permanent public defender in March, a month after it appointed Gerald Farber on an interim basis.

Farber confirmed that he has applied and interviewed for the permanent post, a job he thinks would be a fitting end to his 34 years with the office.

But the supervisors have yet to make that call...

Farber replaced former Public Defender John Roth, who stepped down in February after supervisors suspended him for hiring an attorney who had been convicted of bribing jail inmates to drum up business for his private practice...

The fact Farber hasn't been tapped for the permanent post hasn't stopped him from making changes in the past six months.

...[H]e immediately put an end to Roth's practice of rotating the office's 100 attorneys among its 13 offices. The policy was intended to prevent public defenders from getting cozy with judges and prosecutors, but Farber said it hurt morale.

...Farber has been looking at separating the Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana branches to give attorneys in Fontana more autonomy...

...Farber said he plans to revamp the case-assignment system to ensure the workload is evenly distributed and improve relationships between attorneys and clients.

"It's a common complaint from our clients. "You're the fourth attorney I've seen,' " Farber said. "I want to stop that. I don't want to reinvent the wheel four and five times."

The agency would operate better, he said, under a system that allows an attorney to stay with a case from the moment the Public Defender's Office is appointed.

Building attorney autonomy and morale, providing vertical representation and better representation to the clients... why again didn't they make the interim guy's appointment permanent months ago? After all, it's not like he's only been with the office for 34 years...

August 07, 2005

P.D.: charismatic, emotional, a bit ditzy

Here's an entertaining story from a San Francisco juror:

The public defender...was...charismatic, emotional, and, at times, a bit ditzy. She'd bounce around the room, futzing with her glasses, and changing topics every 15 seconds... sometimes losing track of where she was headed.

The crime was the really interesting part. The defendant, a gay man, let's call him Cranky Drunk, was waiting for a bus at 17th and Market when he spotted another gay man (Tiny Tim) wearing a jacket with what he perceived was a large cross on the back. He was so offended that a gay man would wear such "a symbol of oppression" in the Castro that he went up and started an argument with the guy...

I'd never heard of a gay man being charged with a hate crime before...

Click through to the post to read about Cranky, Tim, Officer Phooey and Doctor Evil, and the verdict.

P.S.: I'm wondering who left a law student on the jury.

August 06, 2005

ID: switch to PD system for Mini-Cassia

In southern Idaho, Minidoka and Cassia counties are switching from private contractors to public defenders for indigent defense:

Instead of the current practice of using private attorneys as public defenders, the counties are forming a common public defender's office. The public defender... "will not be allowed to engage in the practice of civil law and/or criminal law other than in the discharge of the duties of this office," according to the job application... (scroll down).

This change will affect at least three of the four attorneys who now work for the public defender's office, said Dave Haley, who handles felony cases for Cassia County.

"It's not going to affect me that much," he said, because at least 95 percent of his cases are public defense. The other attorneys, however, have "fairly successful" private practices, said Haley, who plans to apply for the public defender's position...

Minidoka County Commissioner Lynn Hunsaker said,

"Separately, we just couldn't afford to do all the things we can do together."

"We wanted to make sure we fulfilled our responsibility for county-provided representation,"
said Clay Handy, Cassia County commissioner, adding that Twin Falls has a similar public defender's office.

The public defender will be appointed from those who submit applications by Wednesday. One application has already been submitted...

The counties now contract with three attorneys in addition to the head public defender, Doug Whipple. Hunsaker said this number could change with the new contract...

The position, which will begin Oct. 1, is a two-year term that may be extended. The short deadline has "created a frantic pace, which will have to be kept up between now and then" to get the department running, Haley said.

Okay, I did toy with applying! For a moment, at least: my wife and son have just come back from vacation in Idaho, and while there, Joe was told by a relative that George W. Bush is protecting us all. My fine fella replied, "I like John Kerry! John Kerry shook my hand!" I could just bust my buttons. My little family's at home here on the south Sound now - I think we'd like to stay.

Still, it will be an entertaining challenge to get a new public defender office up and running, for whoever takes on the job. I wish them well.

August 05, 2005

Good posture

Alf the sacred burro: a student intern back from Chile, and standing tall down in jail visiting:

When I show my Public Defender ID and the jail door buzzes open, I begin to feel a lump in my throat. Phlegm mostly...

I’ve seen lots of different things there...

One thing that I haven’t seen yet is “the face of evil.” Many of my friends seemed to think I’d be seeing it every day, but I’m beginning to wonder if it even exists at all. I’ve looked at innocents, addicts and sinners through those steel bars, but try as I might the most that I ever see is a human face. And so I’ve yet to meet someone I couldn’t in some light see with compassion.

Suerte, compañero Burro.

WA: lawyer arrested while trying to reach client

In the Tri-Cities, a longtime Kennewick defense attorney was arrested when he tried to stop police from questioning his client about a double homicide.

Read that again: "when he tried to stop police from questioning his client."

Jim Egan said he was arrested, handcuffed and booked into the Benton County jail on charges he obstructed a police officer.

Egan said he was hired Thursday to represent Cameron O. Jones, 18...

Egan said he called the jail and was told Jones was in the custody of Kennewick police. But when he called the police department, Egan said he was told they would not tell him Jones' location.

When Egan arrived at the police station in downtown Kennewick a short time later, Sgt. Randy Maynard and Deputy Prosecutor Scott Johnson told Egan he had no right to see Jones because Jones had not asked to speak with him.

As Maynard and Johnson opened a door to return to a secure area of the station, Egan said he began yelling, "Cameron Jones, Cameron Jones, your lawyer is here."

Egan said he yelled several times before Maynard arrested him, handcuffed his arms behind his back and had him taken to jail. Egan said he was searched, fingerprinted, photographed and then released without posting bail pending a court appearance...

Egan said he plans to fight the obstruction charge and possibly sue for false arrest.

Bonus link goes to Bad Cop, No Donut!

August 04, 2005

Pundits on drugs

Breaks my heart that the suffering of my meth clients and their families can get written off as so much hype by the chattering classes, right and left, all to score some debating points. I must be hallucinating: I've seen the scabs and the rotten teeth, the kids taken away, the meth lab next door. Legions of victims of forgery and theft, wasted lives behind bars, early deaths? Yeah, I think "epidemic" is just about the right word.

Yet who am I, a mere public defender peon, next to the brilliance of Slate editor Jack Shafer? Eager to take down a rival news magazine, Shafer mocks the message that there's a huge national methamphetamine problem, because he disapproves of the crudity of the messenger.

Pictures of people scarred by meth? "Gross-out." "Exploitative." "Freak-show pandering." These are my neighbors and clients you're talking about, pendejo. They're not freaks. They're real, they exist, they suffer and die for no good reason. Just maybe someone leafing through a Newsweek in a waiting room will remember the images next time the devil offers them a snort. For that, offending Jack Shafer's sensibilities is a good trade.

Claims of a meth epidemic? "Scaremongering." "Hysteria." "Bugged-eyed claims." Bully for Professor Shafer, he can't bothered to learn the difference between the whites and cross-tops of his youth and today's d-methamphetamine. But who needs curiosity about addiction, or public health, or property crime, or the life and quality of life of poor people? Shafer has a calculator and conceit to spare. Newsweek didn't use the variables he prefers - presto, no epidemic!

(Daily Pundit makes the same mistake and displays the same conceit, but at least he has personal experience with illegal stimulants.)

Breaks my heart too that this kind of high-handed dismissal of other people's misery gets picked up and validated by the echo chamber. "Another Fine Meth" - ha, ha, ha, wicked clever, Biff! Who gives a sh*t about the suffering millions anyway? They're trailer trash, and we are influential media critics; stand back, we've got something pithy to say! Who needs the voices of the folks in the trenches?

They could start by reading their own comments:

"Both Newsweek... and Slate don't deal with the real story - which is NOT the number of deaths. The crisis comes from the crime committed by freaked-up meth heads in search of money for their addiction. That's why the the Sheriffs (and state governments) are aroused.

"Still, being from the Midwest, we've been wondering how long it would take for meth to become chic in the east. The politicians and law enforcement types have been screaming about meth for a couple years. Living in Fargo, ND and Iowa City the last 6 years, I've come in contact with my share of meth users. I don't have any numbers, but my perception is closer to the Newsweek article more than the Slate article (in regard to number of users, not the scare tactics)."

"I look at this story and think, "you f*cking idiots, you're only about 7 years late." I lived in Joplin, MO (in the buckle of the bible belt) and the cops there were at wits end. In 1999, in Twin Falls, Idaho (a bastion of very socially conservative Mormons) this peaceful small town was dealing with its meth epidemic."

Please, pundits, listen and learn before you spout off about meth next time, else we were better off toiling in obscurity.

Bonus links:

- Rob Thurman
on Newsweek:"...makes me wonder why it took white ladies from rural Iowa and tony Chicago suburbs getting all strung out on Miss Tina for mainstream media to pay attention?"

- Chris Clarke on tooth decay and outrage, liberals and poor people, elitism and solidarity. Read the thought-provoking comments, too.


Go over to Blonde Justice and get some now. Spread the word.

August 02, 2005

America, welcome to our nightmare

Methamphetamine has gone mainstream and made the cover of Newsweek. Pay a visit to the photo gallery for a trip to "Meth Valley," with a pocketful of bindles, a horrific view of what your forearm looks like after you've tried to claw out the "meth bugs," and this quote that, if it's to be believed, proves once and for all that crank makes you crazy,

...which many addicts have made on-the-go, cooking in the back seat of their cars as they drive down two-lane country roads.

Watch out for potholes, tweaker. Uh-oh; Bump - KaBlam!

The main article mentions the Dr. Rieux of this plague, Dr. Alex Stalcup. I've heard Dr.Stalcup speak: his approach to meth addiction is sensible and humane, and most of all, it seems to work:

"Meth doesn't lend itself to removing a person from the drug environment, treating them and putting them back in," says Stalcup, whose first experience in addiction medicine came when he ran the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco.

Environmental cuing is emblematic of meth use, he explains... Fifty percent of treatment success comes from restructuring the addict's lifestyle, Stalcup says. Once the patient has been stabilized by the first three steps in recovery -- sleep, sleep, sleep -- and drugs have been prescribed for possible mental illness or depression, Stalcup dictates a daily regimen.

To someone whose life has been erratic, that routine can be as hard as sleeping eight hours, exercising, eating three regularly spaced meals and enjoying at least one positive social contact a day.

"A landmark day in recovery is not when they stop using drugs," Stalcup says. "It's when they start experiencing pleasure again."

A profoundly decent physician....

In 1999, Dr. Stalcup said that one hurdle to treating meth as a national health problem has been geography - at the time, meth was considered mostly a rural and a Western drug:

“I don’t think anyone cares. Traditional drug epidemics get ignored until they hit Washington, D.C., or New York.”

He was right, as we see. As it creeps up on the finer suburbs and the eastern seaboard, meth is making a media splash, in the NY Times, now in Newsweek. I defended my first meth case seven years ago. Glad as I am that the national spotlight is on meth now - people, what took you so long?

(thanks to Sancho for the tip)

p.s.: Why should I care? It's not just professional, it's personal.

Wiki watchee:

technicality, got off on:

What happens when people beneath one's social class successfully assert their constitutional rights

- from the Public Legal Intellectual Glossary - link via L3.

Good for Jeff Adachi

In "When children pay the price of a parent's incarceration", the San Francisco Public Defender writes:

In 2003, the San Francisco Children of Incarcerated Parents Partnership created a "bill of rights" that ensures children will be kept safe and informed at the time of the parent's arrest and able to maintain a meaningful relationship in the event that the parent is incarcerated.

Last week, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors passed a resolution, sponsored by Supervisor Bevan Dufty, supporting the children's bill of rights. "For me, this is a life-and-death issue," Emani Davis, whose father is serving a 110-year prison sentence, told the board at a hearing. "I would not be standing here today if it were not for the commitment of many, many people pushing for the maintenance of my relationship with my father."

Local agencies are already working to make the rights a reality for San Francisco children. Last year, through the support of the Zellerbach Family Foundation, the San Francisco Public Defender's office instituted a program to help incarcerated parents and their children obtain family services, working closely with a sheriff's program that allows prisoners regular contact visits with infants and young children...

I admire Jeff Adachi immensely, and we need more initiatives like this one. When I read this though, I thought about one missing element: the parents; parents who become criminal defendants, and the choices they make before they are arrested and incarcerated.

Would that my clients who are moms and dads would pause a moment to think about the effect of their actions on their children. I know, things like methamphetamine and alcohol can fry that parental circuit, but I wish that all of my clients who have kids cared as much about their well-being as Jeff Adachi so clearly does. In a better world, the care that Adachi shows for his clients' children would be more than matched by their parents themselves.

August 01, 2005

Any public defender dude will tell you

Witnesses don’t always shine ...lawyers must make the best of what they’ve got:

...a problem prosecutors and defense attorneys often face – “challenging,” “difficult,” “unsavory” witnesses. They can be anyone from defendants, to snitches, to passers-by.

They might have a long criminal histories. They might have lied to investigators. They might be gang members, drug dealers or shoplifters. Or they might be just plain unlikable.

Sometimes, just about everyone involved in a case is a problem witness.

Was set to go to trial this week. Had a private investigator work the case and talk to some witnesses. Client walked into court with two felonies, walked out with one gross misdemeanor.

Bad news, bad news

In Georgia, a chief public defender is taking a two-month leave of absence for unspecified health and personal reasons.

(Arthur) English was involved in a three-vehicle collision... March 10 that resulted in the death of (another driver)... According to earlier reports, English... failed to stop and rear-ended Daniel's Ford Mustang. Daniel's Mustang then struck a truck... English could face a vehicular homicide charge in the case, officials said.

"What happened to him could happen to anyone"
Percy's Song
- Bob Dylan

Great, depression!

A reader clicked through to me from this page: Depression, The Lawyers' Epidemic: How You Can Recognize the Signs, by Raymond P. Ward (a fine lawyer and blogger). Must've been someone who knows me.

It's a good post, with comments linking to lawyers assistance and confidential help. This little brochure on lawyers and depression was especially uncanny, like looking into a little PDF mirror.

The post was written back in March, and I'm sure I meant to link to it back then, but I guess I was so damned, well, you know... Anyway, best wishes to the rest of my brethren and sistren managing the depressing aspects of our calling.