June 29, 2006

WA: front page kudos for departing p.d.

From the Tacoma News Tribune (site may require registration):

It’s ‘the end of an era’ as defender retires - Attorney Jack Hill made a long career out of representing Pierce County’s indigent

For more than 30 years, Jack Hill has had a job many people wouldn’t want. He’s led Pierce County’s Department of Assigned Counsel, defending people charged with crimes who often are politically unpopular to defend – men, women and children who can’t afford to pay for an attorney.

Despite the challenges, Hill will retire at the end of the month from a job he thinks has been – and still is – great. “I still like to come in the door,” he said recently. Friday, the 56-year-old father of four will walk out that door at 949 Market St. for the last time...

“It’s a moral commitment at a constitutional level to make sure the system is fair,” he said. “The constitution doesn’t say you have to prosecute people. It says you have the right to counsel. The constitution is about protecting us from government...”

Hill said having a heart operation in the early 1990s made him lose his love of conflict in the courtroom. “This business takes a toll on you that you can’t quantify,” Hill said. “The practice of law – at least criminal law – has not become kinder and gentler. … Living in litigation is as stressful a situation as anything, short of war.”

Since then he’s spent less time as a trial lawyer and more time trying, through cases and lobbying, to reform the law... “Maybe I’m just a social worker at heart,” Hill said...