September 29, 2005

Daydreaming and dog blogging

Currently in development, at least in my mind while waiting for court:

Law and Order:
Dog at Large

In the animal justice system, there are two heroes: the detectives who uncover dog crime, and the prosecutors who put canine miscreants in the doghouse. Episodes will feature shocking snuff footage of overturned trash cans, litter boxes and chicken coops. Wolfish shepherd mixes with sharp teeth and spaniels with angelic puppy-dog eyes alike will be shown capable of the most disgusting acts. In the best tradition of the franchise, criminal defense lawyers will be portrayed with cloven hooves and horns.

Take It To The Box!

It's the reality show where the accused are the stars!

In the pilot, actual criminal defendants are given court-appointed lawyers and full copies of discovery. They don't know it, but members of our studio audience, consisting of family, friends, felons, and focus-group regulars, have been given discovery that's not only missing random pages, but also has been translated into random Indo-European languages and re-translated into English.

Each accused will be given a plea bargain offer rated "ridiculously lenient" by a panel of experts. When it comes time to discuss the deal, the lawyer will be drowned out by shouts from the audience to "Take It To The Box!"

The second half of the show will be an actual jury trial, to which all members of the audience will be invited. None will show up.

It's Your Funeral

Contestants will be accused of identical crimes. They'll be given money to hire a private criminal defense lawyer, but the only information that each can use to choose the best lawyer will be the Yellow Pages. Jailarity ensues as similarly situated players wind up with wildly varying outcomes.

September 28, 2005

ID: Elmore Co. P.D. moves on

Public Defender Ed Frachiseur retires

From major felonies to miscellaneous misdemeanors, from juvenile offenses to cases for child protection, as well as mental commitments, attorney Ed Frachiseur has worked them all. After nearly 30 years in the legal profession in Mountain Home, Frachiseur is no stranger to criminal law, serving at various times as both a prosecutor and as a public defender for Elmore County. Now the attorney is preparing to retire from government service, but he's not quite ready to give up the profession entirely...

Three-fifths of a voter

A quick quiz on democracy and incarceration: what do Pickaway Correctional Institution, Ross Correctional Institution and Chillicothe Correctional Institution have in common, besides being prisons in Ohio?

The answer is that they're all in Ohio House of Representatives district 85. And because the U.S. census counts prisoners in the place where they are incarcerated rather than the place where they lived prior to arrest, it also means that every inmate in those facilities -- about 9 percent of the total population of the district, according to the website Prisoners of the Census – is counted as a resident of the area.

Unlike the other residents, though, the prisoners of district 85 never get to vote...

A decision is also pending from the 2nd Circuit in Muntaqim v. Coombe... [O]ne amicus brief from the National Voting Rights Institute and the Prison Policy Initiative discusses the effect of incarceration on apportionment patterns – a phenomenon the brief describes as being "a striking modern-day parallel to the 'Three-Fifths Clause' of the United States Constitution." The court heard oral argument on that case en banc in June.

via John Elias at ACS Blog.

September 27, 2005

Putting the old meth stash to good use

In hindsight, physiologically questionable to do a line with a violent murderer in one's apartment, but she did survive the encounter, after all:

Ashley Smith, the woman who says she persuaded suspected courthouse gunman Brian Nichols to release her by talking about her faith in God, discloses in a new book that she gave him methamphetamine during the hostage ordeal.

Smith did not share that detail with authorities after she talked her way out of captivity. In her book, “Unlikely Angel...” Smith says Nichols had her bound on her bed with masking tape and an extension cord. She says he asked for marijuana, but she did not have any, so she dug into her illegal stash of crystal meth instead...

(Aside to clients, would any of you who are cranksters give a man meth when he asks for bud?)

Says the editorialist:

"Now, most of us don't have crystal meth lying around the house, even for use in an emergency... But that shouldn't belittle her accomplishment."

I'll remember that line with my next meth client. Angels can emerge in the most unlikely places.

Item via Majikthise, who titled her post, "Praise the Lord and pass the methamphetamine".

Latest verdict

The jury has spoken, dammit. Guilty on all three counts.

Pre-trial advice: don't leave a diversion deal on the table.

Post-trial advice: don't threaten to kill the prosecutor.

September 26, 2005

More empathy for BTK's advocate

That Lawyer Dude pays me a huge compliment, but the rest of his latest post is trustworthy.

He was prompted to write by a post about Sarah McKinnon, a public defender who represented the BTK killer, who said,

"I've seen things I never wanted to see. I have information I never wanted, and I have things inside of me that I don't want ... but it's stuff I have to keep until the day he dies."

My heart went out to her. So did That Lawyer Dude's. He's been there too:

One day the case ends. The excitement, the worry, the noise and the rest ends. But not for you. You still linger with questions. Did I do the best that I could? Could I have done something different that would have changed the outcome? Was I the right one for this case?... Maybe you have haunting memories of what was in the autopsy, a picture of a victim. Hearing the victim scream into a tape machine as she is being bludgeoned to death. The PD that defended the BTK killer was a person... But first she is a Lawyer, a Trial Lawyer. That means that she is about to undergo a decompression, a disappointment, even despair. She has stood where no other dared to stand. Next to a serial murderer, in protection of his rights under the Constitution of the United States of America. Believe me when I say that you may revile the BTK murderer, but pray for his lawyer...

Today after day one of my Class-C felony trial, I came back to the office and learned that an in-house murder was re-assigned to my two co-workers on either side of my work station. They were excited; I hope they'll be okay. Secretly, I breathed a little sigh. I don't care if I never go back to murder defense.

Hello, stranger

After a long time away, I'm a PD has checked back in with "Post-PD-Stress Disorder..."

I think she misses our kind; we get what she's saying.


In Indiana Public Defender's state,

Petty criminals can walk, for a price: Program unfair to poor, public defenders tell court

If you commit a minor crime like shoplifting in Marion County, you can essentially buy your way out of trouble and have the charges dismissed. A pretrial diversion program -- similar to ones in at least 76 other Indiana counties -- permits people to pay a $150 administrative fee to erase the charges.

But for those who cannot afford the cost, a guilty plea or trial are the only choices. "This is just blatant discrimination against poor people," said Kathleen M. Sweeney, a Marion County deputy public defender. "Because they're poor, they're treated differently."

We have a version of diversion here which is available to some people accused of some felonies. It's a good deal if you can afford it and comply with the requirements of the Friendship Program ( a name I appreciate in a Newspeak, "The Prisoner" sort of way.

However, if you accept "Friendship" and can't maintain it, then you get a version of due process where the judge will review the probable cause statement in your court file. When being handed your next court date, you may be be told, "Please come back to court prepared to be found guilty at that time."

Of course, one can reject the offer of diversion, with the chance to make three felony charges go away with good behavior and some cash changing hands, even perhaps after your assigned p.d. gets you the second opinion and strong recommendation of one of the most senior p.d.'s in the county. Then one can leave diversion on the table and go to jury trial facing 22 to 29 months if your bacon is not saved by your lawyer. That would be me.

September 25, 2005

BTK - collateral damage

Member of Rader's public defense team still haunted by case: Weeks after the notorious six-month BTK case ended, defense attorney Sarah McKinnon waits to regain her life

Sarah McKinnon spent hours each day with Dennis Rader, helping to guide him through the legal process that ended with him being sentenced to 10 life terms for a series of sadistic murders that terrified Wichita for decades. Now, the Reno County woman wonders how long it will take for life to return to normal - if it ever does.

"I'm still trying to find my stride," McKinnon told The Hutchinson News for a story in Sunday's editions. "I'm still trying to find where regular is - where I left off six months ago, where normal used to be..."

"It's not like you can call your best friend or your mom and dump it on them," she said. "Because of this case's high profile, I've had to carry it inside of me. And now that it's said and done, I can't just spill my guts.

"I've seen things I never wanted to see," said McKinnon, who has lost 25 pounds since the Sedgwick County Public Defender's office took the case in March. "I have information I never wanted, and I have things inside of me that I don't want ... but it's stuff I have to keep until the day he dies..."

"I don't think anybody can appreciate what it was like to be in the trenches with him," McKinnon said. "But the bottom line is that I treated another human with respect and compassion, and for that I don't apologize. I did what I had to do, and someday, I hope I have a sense of pride for doing that."

Keep a good thought for her.

UT: outsider, warrior, hero

The Desperate News has a fine (and long!) profile of Ron Yengich, criminal defense guru:

Champion of the underdog: Attorney looks back at 30-year career

That's 30 years of taking on some of Utah's most high-profile cases, usually on the side of the underdog and squarely against public sentiment... Thirty years of representing murderers, drug dealers, thieves. Thirty years of fighting for congressmen, mayors, judges, "Joe Sixpack," pro athletes, actors, religious leaders, journalists. "All manner of disreputables," he says wryly...

When this man walks into a courtroom, he's carrying the hopes, struggles and toughness of the old Bingham miners from whom he sprang; he carries the tragedy of his beloved brother Nick Jr. in his heart; he carries the bitterness of his own brief stint in jail and the keen feeling of helplessness in the morass of the justice-system machine. He carries all that into the courtroom. No wonder he's known as the toughest, scrappiest, not to mention most successful defense attorney in the state.

How did Salt Lake Valley spawn the phenomenon known as Ronald James Yengich — liberal, outspoken, in-your-face, Catholic, Italian-Croatian, blue collar, champion of the underdog and oppressed, son of two generations of miners? He's a man so far outside the norm in Utah that he is in a category of one...

September 24, 2005

ID: new judge in Twin Falls

Harris sworn in as judge

Judge Roger Harris, right, jokes with state Supreme Court Justice Roger Burdick after being sworn in as a magistrate judge for Twin Falls County.

Harris, 43, has been an attorney for 15 years. He graduated from the University of Idaho College of Law in 1989 and previously served as deputy prosecutor for the City of Twin Falls and as a public defender for Twin Falls County.

September 22, 2005

Careful, judges on-line

United States Law Week has this bit of advice:

(74 U.S.L.W. 2131, for those of you with access or a subscription)

It takes off from a formal opinion from the Los Angeles County Bar Association Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee,

QUESTIONS PRESENTED: Do lawyers participating in e-mail communications with a Listserv or “chat room” risk engaging in improper ex parte communications if judges in front of whom the lawyers may appear also have access to that same information? If a judge on the Listserv encounters a communication pertinent to a case in which he or she is presiding, do the Listserv communications constitute improper ex parte communications with the judge? What are the obligations and duties of a judge who receives a communication pertinent to a pending case? Do Listserv communications create special issues regarding lawyer’s duties of confidentiality?

Click through for the thrilling answers, and stay tuned for the coming sequel, ETHICAL ISSUES INVOLVING LAWYER BLOGS.

("Well I never!" "Oh, yeah, there was that one time when my trial judge read my post about our most-recent trial...")

September 21, 2005

GA p.d.'s firing begins

Georgia chief public defender Arthur English's borrowed time has just about run out, it seems:

Ousting English: State moves to fire Public Defender over 'mismanagement' claim

Members of the Georgia Public Defenders Standards Council Friday voted to begin termination proceedings against Griffin Judicial Circuit Public Defender Arthur English.

Problems for English began last March when he was involved in a wreck which resulted in the death of... Graybill Daniel.. He was charged with the misdemeanor offense of vehicular homicide in the second degree...

In August, English was charged with two counts of receiving stolen property after a 4-wheeler and trailer, both reportedly stolen, were found on property he owns... The public defender has been on administrative leave with pay since the latter charges were filed.

The move to oust English, however, reportedly has nothing to do with the criminal charges, but rather, because of problems with the way he ran the circuit's office. The state is accusing English of taking on private cases while serving as public defender.

As the MP said to Ramsay MacDonald,
"Sit down, man, you're a bloody tragedy."

Requiem for a client

Colleague Nebur Sobalalliv is mourning his clients who have died:

Today, in court, I talked it over with a mentor of mine that I used to work with at the Public Defender's office. This attorney told me that I need to use "professionalism" as both sword and shield, to protect not only my clients but also myself. I need to keep a distance between myself and my clients, I was told. And then this attorney gave me a much needed hug. The interaction was comforting, but I hope I never build up that wall.

Keep the faith, counselor. You don't have to build that wall.

LA and ID: failing and flooding

Off-topic, but really good writing:

Orcinus' David Neiwert with political and personal reflections on New Orleans' levees and Idaho's Teton Dam, and how each came to be washed away.

WA: having issues

There are worse things than being represented by a public defender.

Not being represented by a public defender, for instance.

On trial without a lawyer

There aren't too many people in the King County courtroom who seem particularly happy with a 24-year-old Kent man's decision to represent himself against charges that he killed his parents.

Certainly not the Superior Court judge who has repeatedly urged Neelesh Phadnis to reconsider his decision to represent himself. Not his former lawyer, who sits next to Phadnis and tries, usually in vain, to give counsel. Even Phadnis, who has no legal training, concedes he is "unhappy" and "shaky" about his situation. But he said he has been forced to defend himself because he has had "issues" with all four of the public defenders assigned to him since his arrest...

September 20, 2005

Oly's good, Milwaukee's best

Tonight, a sign that I am becoming part of the local fishbowl: being approached by a client at the supermarket.

As for the two twenty-four packs of Old Milwaukee under his arms: who am I to judge? At least he paid for them at the check-out.

September 19, 2005

OR: more MD's vs. the "meth myth"

A Daily Astorian Special Report - This is your brain on meth: North Coast doctors label meth a ‘social disaster’

Calling Jack Shafer:

“People don’t die of methamphetamine overdoses, that’s very rare,” said Dr. JoAnn Stefanelli, Clatsop County’s medical examiner. She estimates that in the last five years, she’s only seen one person who died of an overdose, possibly of a heart attack. But she believes that the drug plays a big role in many of the suicides and prescription drug overdoses that she sees, she said.

And methamphetamine has severe effects on the brain.

“It biochemically changes the brain,” Stefanelli said. “It interferes with all the pleasure senses, you actually have to take the drug to get back to baseline ... the pull of that sort of drug is so powerful.”

September 18, 2005

Meth mouth: believe it

"Meth mouth" makes mark

When children drop in for a dental checkup or cleaning, Dr. Gail Redman usually ends the appointment with her familiar reminder to brush and floss regularly. But she recently added something new: "Whatever you do, don't do meth."

The unusual advice, rarely heard in a dentist's office, is the result of Redman's seeing more and more cases of a disturbing dental decay considered a telltale sign of methamphetamine abuse. The condition, commonly known as "meth mouth," leaves users' teeth black-stained, rotted and often unsalvageable...

Almost unheard of in urban areas, meth mouth is a growing problem for dentists working in the nation's rural stretches, where meth has hit the hardest. Already rural social services and law enforcement are dealing with the drug's fallout, from families torn apart by addiction to the toxic home labs where meth is made.

Now, rural dentists say meth is changing their jobs, too...

September 17, 2005

WA: admitted vigilante killer of sex offenders is arraigned

Mullen pleads not guilty to sex offender killings

In Bellingham, the man charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the killings of two registered sex offenders has entered not guilty pleas in Whatcom County Superior Court.

Michael A. Mullen, 35, who had said at his initial hearing 10 days earlier that he wanted to plead guilty... has also changed his mind about legal representation, originally saying he wanted to represent himself. As of Friday morning, public defender Richard Fasey was officially working as Mullen's lawyer.

FL: headache

Freeman's attorney steps down:
The 69-year-old Citra man whose pit bull mix dogs mauled his 81-year-old neighbor to death got a new attorney Thursday because of a conflict of interest between his public defender and two witnesses in the case.

"I can't ethically represent Mr. (Robert) Freeman if the state plans on calling both these witnesses," said Bill Miller, chief assistant public defender

Of two minds on "holistic" lawyering

An article from Tucson law professor David Wexler:

Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Rehabilitative Role of the Criminal Defense Lawyer

In this article, I will identify the potential rehabilitative role of the attorney from the beginning stages -- possible diversion, for example -- through sentencing and even beyond -- through conditional or unconditional release, and possible efforts to expunge the criminal record.

Or perhaps "habilitative" for the percentage of clients who were never habilitated the first time.

In the area of criminal law, the practical side of therapeutic jurisprudence has, to date, been reflected more in judicial activity than among the practicing bar... Since judges are in an enviable position to influence local legal culture and climate, it is likely that courts will encourage the development of a criminal law bar attuned to these concerns. Indeed, even without a push from the judiciary, some lawyers have begun to practice criminal law in a specifically therapeutic key. Mostly, interested lawyers will likely augment a traditional criminal law practice with the more holistic approach suggested by therapeutic jurisprudence, and the present article seeks to point interested practitioners in that direction.

I'm of two minds about this, most decidedly. One side is the therapeutic lawyer, getting my client probation and some programs, suggesting some ways to lift that monkey off his back. Tempermentally, and as for wanting the best outcomes for my clients, that side suits me very well. The other mind, though, belongs to the lawyer sworn to be a zealous advocate, standing in the breach and poking holes in the government's case, finding ways to get the client off, jurisprudentially speaking.

Particularly when it comes to beating substance abuse, I'm almost ready to say, by any means necessary. Ever seen how your clients look healthier when they've been off the street a few days? I've been in the position at the meetings before Drug Court, knowing that it could do a strung-out or spun individual client some good to stay in jail a bit longer, yet advocating my client's desire to get out and be free. I know, possibly free to use again - talk about your "negative freedom."

But it's a problem when the Drug Court offer comes before discovery comes, before the lab test comes, before any meaningful chance to vet the case for defenses and suppression issues, and when the price of admission is a guilty plea. The client has to roll the dice, and if he opts out or washes out of Drug Court, it's case closed.

When the therapeutic authorities come to push, some times clients shove back. Some clients reject Drug Court, which is stickier for them after they've signed up for the program. That's when the iron hand of coercive rehabilitation comes into view, with "graduated sanctions." I'm always going to be skeptical of government officials saying, "we've punishing you for your own good." Paradoxically, though, in the case of problem-solving courts, and with substance abuse, there's some scholarly support for the claim that it works. I want my clients to be free of cops and addiction. What's a criminal defense lawyer to do?

Reminds me of the time the juvenile prosecutor told my juvenile deputy, "you don't get it: we have to convict your client before we can help her!"

(The historian and critical theorist Christopher Lasch had more than a few interesting things to say about the ways that the therapeutic state can override liberty interests and clients' freedom.)

Link via CrimProf Blog.

September 15, 2005

Hung jury

One day of trial on a felony violation of a no-contact order, seven hours of wondering, and four notes from the jury room later, twelve people answered "No" when the judge brought them back in and asked, "do you feel that further deliberation will result in a verdict?"

Oh well, it's better than a guilty verdict. My client's still in custody though.

Skelly: muddying the headwaters of decision since 1987.

LACDL Katrina relief blog

Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Katrina Relief Blog is here:

This Blog is being established to assist the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in providing relief to criminal defense lawyers across the state whose lives and practices have been disrupted by Hurricane Katrina. Anyone may add a comment to a post.

NACDL's Katrina relief project page is here.

September 14, 2005

The dreaded hypo takes another life

And what a shame too; the job interview was going so well:

my interview withe the Public Defender was going wonderfully...until...

after flattering him with my knowledge of his accomplishments and reiterating the importance of the balance the PD's office brings to our adversarial justice system, i was asked "the hypothetical!"

Mango Chili Pop, we hardly knew ye.

Another reason p.o.'s are cooler than cops

I'm in trial. My client's probation officer (community corrections officer, in Washington State government-speak) is on the witness stand:

Prosecutor: Did you and the other officers establish a perimeter?

CCO: No, we took a nonchalant type of approach.

September 13, 2005

Blogging from inside the jury

Happy Scapula got picked for a misdemeanor jury trial in Snohomish County (WA) District Court last week. Read how the blogger "helped" a hold-out juror "work through" (an excellent Western Washington phrase, with its polite yet passive-aggressive tinge):

from 'I don't have a reason for my doubt' to 'I don't have a reasonable doubt' to 'my verdict is guilty'

Part I

Part II

Part III

Update: Blonde Justice has some smart commentary on Happy's jury duty experience.

Roshi, ronin, or sloth?

Submitted for your approval, or disapproval as the case may be, from a comment left by Brainmarket on Little Lulu's latest post:

In my opinion, accepting the futility of the system and our roles in it (whichever side you are on) is the first step toward being a great lawyer. Only then can you see prosecuting or defending as "just work" and attain that state of "zen" objectivity that is essential to success, that is, success in the sense of being happy at work and success in the sense of providing the most effective representation to your client.

What do you think?

While you're at it, check out Brainmarket's blog, Oswald Defense Lawyer, featuring some pretty good posts, which suggest that accepting the futility of the meat-grinder does not mean rolling over and playing dumptruck.

VT: do the gerbil crime, do the gerbil time

The horror, the horror:

Pet gerbil dead in family brawl

Was it an accident or something more sinister? The police may never know. But this is certain:

A gerbil is dead. And someone will have to pay.

September 11, 2005

LA: update from A Fighting Chance

A post-Katrina status report from A Fighting Chance, an organization "giving poor people facing the death penalty the facts for their defense":

The staff of A Fighting Chance and the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center (LCAC) have decided to reconstitute in Houston, TX. We don't know when we will be able to return to New Orleans so we are setting up temporary residence in Houston for the next 2 months or more, as needed...

Link via by way of Greg Worthen of Public Defender Investigator Network.

GA: justice, one person at a time

'Holistic' attorneys preach a defense that goes far beyond court

In a converted Corvair shop in a rundown part of downtown Atlanta, a group of lawyers and social workers tinker with the way the justice system treats indigent defendants.

The Georgia Justice Project's guiding principle is something more likely heard at a day spa than a nonprofit legal center: Treat each client with a holistic approach.

I hired a woman back in Twin to be my office defense investigator, and she took this concept and ran with it, expanding the job description from that of a general forensic investigator to include duties such as targeted services coordinator, substance abuse treatment booking agent and social worker without portfolio. Every office should have its own investigator. Every office should be so lucky to have a Jill of all trades like Gwen.

As for the article, where I was expecting a client-centered approach, the reporter takes an odd sort of a Boomer turn, and focuses more on the psychosocial benefits of this approach to the attorneys:

For disillusioned attorneys burnt out on corporate life or looking for a higher calling, the project is often a way station of sorts. Some stop over only briefly while figuring out their next move, though a few... make careers out of it.

For desperate defendants, it's a last stop, a furtive attempt to break the "destructive cycle" of crime and poverty...

Oh well, by any means necessary, I suppose. I may be more comfortable with terms like "client-centered" than with the word "holistic," which sounds a bit too much like drumming circles for me, but working out of their converted garage, the good people at Georgia Justice Project don't sound too frou-frou! They sound idealistic, and they seem to be doing some good street-level life-saving work, for clients and incidentally for a few wounded lawyers too.

And their website has an excellent intro paragraph:

We are the Georgia Justice Project. We are an unlikely mix of lawyers, social workers, and a landscaping company. We defend people accused of crimes and, win or lose, we stand with our clients as they rebuild their lives.

Pay them a visit.

FL: "I don't want you, man"

An old familiar scenario from P'cola, Lower Alabama:

Court system must do well even if defendants are at their worst:

There was no love lost between the defendant and his attorney.

"I don't want you, man," Johnny Gettis snapped at Scott Tatum, the assistant public defender representing him on a charge that could send him to prison for life.

At one point, as Tatum questioned a witness, Gettis even interrupted his own lawyer, "Objection, your honor."

Tatum acknowledged his client's "animosity." "There are problems here," he told Judge Mike Jones.

Still, the trial proceeded.

Click on through to the story to see how the trial turned out (that is, if you need to click on through to the story to see how the trial turned out).

September 09, 2005

Katrina's legal wake

Remember that Louisiana's system for indigent criminal defense wasn't in the best shape before the hurricane? Now it's in shambles:

"I talked to one guy who was arrested for reading a tarot card without a permit... These are mostly poor people. They haven't been in contact with their family. They have no word at all. A lot of them are pretty devastated... The warden said they hadn't had food or water for two or three days. So a lot of them were just grateful to be out of the sun, in an air-conditioned place where they could find food and a shower and a mattress."

In addition to the logistical problems of setting up courts, finding a place to meet, and getting judges, lawyers and evidence, a major question looms about how to pay for the defense of indigent detainees. Louisiana has been in a low-grade crisis for years over the issue, and currently two-thirds of the money to defend those too poor to afford lawyers comes from court costs for traffic and parking offenses.

But with the evacuation of New Orleans and its environs, none of that money will be available.

Legal officials say that without a quick resolution of the problem the state may be forced to apportion cases to public defenders on a level that makes adequate representation impossible or to free prisoners rather than violate their constitutional right to a speedy trial...

September 08, 2005

God be with you til we meet again

Greetings from Denver, home of one of the outstanding public defender programs in the country, and until this past Saturday, of my brother Mike.

I saw him yesterday and knelt by his open casket, and it was comforting to remember, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen." It's a promise I hope for, some days more shakily than others, but that my brother believed in to the marrow. The deacon had his back to us while we said a rosary, but I could see him wiping away tears. It was gratifying to learn how well he'd known my brother, as did the monsignor, who remembered my brother in the homily today.

As we waited for Mass to start today, my heart broke all over again seeing the tenderness and grief of my parents and sisters. Somehow, through the incongruity or the sentimentality of it, it eased my heart greatly to hear the pianist playing a hymn from my default culture, "God Be With You Till We Meet Again". We lowered him down at the foot of the Front Range under a beautiful Western sky. Hail and farewell, Mike.

(Bonus links for incorrigibly hard-hearted and cynical public defenders go to two Warren Zevon songs: "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead" and "Keep Me In Your Heart". I admit that I thought of the first song first, but I felt the second song today. Cancer is a bitch, but in Zevon's death and in my brother's, maybe there's something to all this this talk about redemptive suffering.)

Worthy new blog

Please check out The Wretched of the Earth, from some colleagues in the poverty law field.

September 05, 2005


This site will be down this week while I am out-of-state on a family matter. In the meantime, please visit the blogs in my blogroll, particularly those which you haven't seen before.

Thanks. I expect to talk to you again the week of September 12.

Michael Douglas Hansen, 1946-2005

Through many nations and many seas have I come
To carry out these wretched funeral rites, brother,
That at last I may give you this final gift in death
And that I might speak in vain to silent ashes.
Since fortune has borne you, yourself, away from me.
Oh, poor brother, snatched unfairly away from me,
Now, though, even these, which from antiquity and in the custom of our parents, have been handed down, a gift of sadness in the rites, accept them, flowing with many brotherly tears, And for eternity, my brother, hail and farewell.

- Catullus

September 04, 2005

On being poor

I think I would give a copy of this to every law student starting a clinical course, and every new intern and attorney hired to work in legal services and public defender offices:

"Being poor", by John Scalzi.

No, by the grace of G_d I don't know what it's like first-hand, but I've been honored to hire and work with people who do, and who've helped me to understand. Read the post and the comments.

(This one goes out to my friend and colleague, "Dennis K.")

Just cuz you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you

More facts and logic from Mark Kleiman:
The methamphetamine epidemic:
Even real problems get hyped

Press skepticism about official claims regarding drug abuse is always in short supply. Insofar as Jack Shafer of Slate merely wants to encourage such skepticism, I'm on his side.

But just as even paranoids have real enemies, genuine problems are sometimes the subjects of hype. Shafer seems to believe that cultural and media criticism is a substitute for exploring the real world, and that's a bad mistake. Reciting the mantra "moral panic" doesn't make real social problems disappear...

Instead of analyzing Shafer's writings line-by-line, let me simply state the facts as they are known to people who pay attention to this set of problems for a living...

Clink on through to the original post for more.

(link via Fox Gnaws)

September 03, 2005

William Rehnquist has died

Chief Justice Rehnquist died tonight, rest him.

September 02, 2005

Help New Orleans Justice Center

From The Guardian - Stranded:

For 12 years the Justice Center in New Orleans campaigned for poor inmates facing the death penalty. Now it has been completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Clive Stafford Smith, the human rights lawyer who founded it, says hope is also lost for scores of its clients.

Read the story, then go to the Justice Center site. They can use your help:

In order to set up a temporary office we need the following:

• Office space: a substantial amount of office space has already been donated by the Gulf Region Advocacy Center;
• A new server, with back up tape drive capable of recovering and maintaining our data;
• Remote server hosting to allow broadband access to our files for staff at the temporary office and those who are still located in other states;
• Desktop or lap top computers for 8 staff to work on;
• Three laser printers;
• A copier machine;
• Desks and chairs for 10 staff (half of this has already been donated by the Gulf Region Advocacy Center);
• Office supplies – pads, pens, filing cabinets, hole punches, staplers, highlighters, post-it-notes – you name it, we need it;
• Phone and fax lines and an internet connection and networking;

Due to the urgent need for the offices to regain access to the server and its data we have made arrangements to have our data restored and a new server established. This will end up costing about $9,000 and has been put on a credit card. The Gulf Region Advocacy Center, itself a cash strapped non-profit, has already generously donated office space and some office furniture, as well as a fax machine.

We would also be grateful to receive assistance for our staff who are now homeless and have lost their possessions.

If you are able to donate goods, services or cash or have any questions about the Justice Center please contact us: Richard Bourke, or Christine Lehmann,, or make an on-line donation.

(link via Talk Left)

(bonus link goes to an evacuation report from New Orleans resident and editor Jordan Flaherty, via Creek Running North)

Happy birthday,!

Colorado public defender investigator Greg Worthen and Public Defender Investigator Network have my warmest wishes for their first blog - anniversary.

(And I say that not just because Greg mistakes my goofy posts for news!)

Good-looking site, excellent resource for our side. Nice job, Mr. Worthen.

ID: football player murderers plead guilty

In Moscow, Idaho, Matthew and James Wells pleaded guilty today to charges of second degree murder in the killing of former University of Idaho football player Eric McMillan:

James Wells said Friday neither Riggins nor their younger brother asked them to kill anyone. "They didn't give us no order," he said. "We felt we could resolve it."


From the Oregonian, describing the effects of meth using the dreaded "e"-word:

The children of meth:
Oregon's meth epidemic creates thousands of "orphans," abused and neglected children who fall into the state's care after their parents are arrested

When Sadie's parents were ramped-up on methamphetamine, they fought. Vicious fights, with fists, screams, guns and blood.

Sitting in Carol Chervenak's examination room at the ABC House in Albany, the 9-year-old girl recalled standing in the driveway, watching her dad, high and wild-eyed, hammer on her mother's head with the butt of a pistol...

...Sadie was on her way to a Linn County foster home, about to join the growing list of what police and social workers call Oregon's "meth orphans."

I'm reasonably certain that children like Sadie aren't a myth: I represented parents like hers for years, and this is the same Oregonian which Slate's Jack Shafer praised for its methamphetamine coverage.

WA: charges vs. lawyer to be dismissed

Tri-Cities criminal defense lawyer Jim Egan was charged with obstructing a police officer for his actions inside the Kennewick, WA jail on August 4, 2005.

This week a judge accepted a prosecutor's promise to dismiss the charge with prejudice in six months, on the condition that Egan not commit any new related crime, with the judge, not the prosecutor, deciding if a new crime has been committed. The one condition placed upon Egan was that he apologize:

"I apologize to everyone to whom I was obnoxious on August 4, 2005, at the Kennewick police station. I do not apologize for attempting to let my client know that he had help in the lobby. I was hired by my client's parents to represent their 18-year-old who was being questioned about a double homicide of which he was innocent. I knew that if he ended up being charged he could face the death penalty, so I felt I had to be a zealous as possible to let him know that he was not alone. However, as a lawyer I pride myself on professional behavior and it is never professional to be obnoxious, no matter what the situation."

Eagan was represented by attorneys Todd Harms, Jeff Robinson and Sheryl Gordon McCloud.

September 01, 2005

Chilling tales of suspense!

From the files of Public Defender Investigator:

"I Killed Them...With Ice Bullets":

"He's worried, he wants me to watch what I'm saying to you."

I should have said, "I need to get the f*ck out of your house.... RIGHT NOW!," but my curiosity got the best of me and I sat down on his really funky leather couch."

To be continued...

Katrina message from NLADA

During this difficult time, NLADA has been reaching out to our members in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, especially those in areas that have been most affected by Hurricane Katrina. We've been able to reach some of you, while others remain in areas without phone service, electricity and in some cases the very infrastructure of their programs. Contact with them has been difficult. Much like some of the reporters we see on TV who are relaying messages of survival and hope, NLADA would like to hear from our members who are in a position to report on their personal status as well as the status of the programs and organizations in which they work. If there are members out there who have been able to reach colleagues in New Orleans, the communities along the Gulf Coast and all the other areas so terribly affected by Hurricane Katrina, please take a moment to let us know their status and of course to let us know what we in the NLADA community can do to help. We will relay any and all information as it comes in through our Web site, list servs and various electronic publications.

All of us at NLADA are working to develop and coordinate responses to the legal needs of our members. Currently, NLADA is gathering the names of members who have handled a wide variety of issues resulting from crises ranging from the tragedy of September 11 to the hurricanes in Florida to the wildfires in the West. These members have forwarded a great deal of information in the form of manuals, procedures and collection of real case studies in the wake of disasters and are willing to act as resources for our members in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, who have the overwhelming task of attending to people who have literally lost everything. This information will both be distributed electronically and available on our Web site. If you have information that you would like us to distribute, please contact Deborah Dubois at For those programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation, you should know that NLADA will work closely with LSC to help it secure funds for emergency services in a supplemental appropriations bill.

We will continue to work with our board of directors and our civil, defender and client policy group members to effectively coordinate our efforts in meeting your needs as they arise. We know that the individuals we serve will unfortunately occupy a significant portion of the population in need and that the resources on both the civil and defender sides of our community will be stretched greatly. The enormity of the tasks that lie ahead are daunting, but please know that NLADA is a resource for you and we will do all that we can to support you during this very difficult time.

We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.


Jo-Ann Wallace, President & CEO
National Legal Aid & Defender Association