February 27, 2006

Simple rules

Blondie explains some simple rules for her clients:

1. Keep in touch with me...

2. Come to court...

3. Don't get rearrested...

Out here, apparently there's a newspaper circulating in the jails which is aimed at the incarcerated demographic, mostly featuring lawyer ads and legal advice based on the laws of other states, but this month it provides some useful tips:

"Don't B.S. your attorney - they've heard it all;"

"Refrain from alcohol before court -- it smells really bad and everyone notices;"

"Ignore your jail house lawyer -- he's in, your attorney is out;"

"Drawers should not show in court;" and,

"Don't make stupid excuses. How many times can your grandmother die?"

Cranky-licious crankiness

There are some guys out there who are not happy with the public defender customer service! Here's Deucey:

YUP yup, Another gay ass day at court... I wish I could plead guilty and cop out but my Public Defender and my Dad really wont let me...I hate that shit..

Meanwhile, "Pokin Smot" reports:

maaaannnn my public defender pussied out on me and the office couldnt get in touch with him all weekend...

Not letting you plead guilty, not being available to take your calls on Saturday and Sunday... yeah, we suck. At least we're not homophobes. That, and we know how to punctuate and spell.

CA: say, you're sorry

So I liked this headline from the Ukiah Daily Journal:

A sorry prosecutor

Moral: take a ski trip, lose a conviction.

(Why this lesson is in a 02/27/06 newspaper is a mystery, as the case itself is from 1994. Perhaps it's meant as a refresher course, spring skiing coming up and all.)

And friends, they may think it's a movement

From the San Jose Mercury News, a follow-up guest editorial, Public defender movement a reminder of justice denied:

Recently I was writing an article about Clara Foltz, the first female lawyer in California... At the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, Clara Foltz launched the public-defender movement with a compelling description of the evils she had seen herself.

While I was putting the finishing touches on my article, the Mercury News published its exposé of criminal justice in the county where Clara Foltz first practiced. It describes the same incompetence and neglect that she portrayed in her speeches and writings: the same.

A hundred years after Foltz shocked her World's Fair audience, thousands still serve unjust sentences because they did not have adequate counsel...

Plus ça change?

Update: Blast! PD Stuff beat me to this by a day! More proof that p.d. investigators are quicker on the uptake than p.d.'s (or at least this p.d.)

February 25, 2006

GA: when in Rome...

The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council is one year old and off to a good start.

Now some may gripe , for instance, that "...the public defender system has replaced a functional indigent defense system designed by Floyd County officials for Floyd County," but really, you know, that's not a bad thing when you remember what used to be considered good enough for "functional." If you read the article, in one northwest corner of the state you can see how things are improving.

Being sent to the minors

Watch this space for angst and foibles from a juvenile public defender. Coming April 1.

February 24, 2006

See you in Walla Walla

Since ACS at "Defending Those People" posted those Jay-Z lyrics ("It's like bein on trial for your life with a public defender"), I've been having this song bouncing around my head:

The judge wasn't lenient like he was before
You got 3 to 5 and a kick out the door
The public defender really did try
Too little, too late you didn't GET A LIFE

Hey wallah! I'll see you in Walla Walla
Slap on the wrist, well not this time!...

Great song, seems to resonate with at least one other blogger, possibly someone with experience in the system. Big bonus points to The Offspring for making a catchy tune out of one of our finest Washington State prisons.

I'll be scanning my mp3's to find more examples of positive (or at least neutral) mentions of public defenders in song lyrics. Could be a really short list - can you think of any?

In other news, this reminder: if you make $63,000 a year and can afford a $900 a month car payment, you're probably not going to get a pro bono lawyer or a public defender.

And, if I hear you say, "I actually got an Attorney instead of a Public Defender, so my hopes are up now and I feel much better," I will simultaneously grit and grind my teeth.

February 23, 2006

Free verse

Even though I won't link to them, the faceless robot-powered zombie blogs are feeling some love for us p.d.'s this week:

You know you want the public defenders hook up. public defenders surpasses all others. The hottest public defenders is what you needYou know you want the public defenders hook up. public defenders surpasses all others. The hottest public defenders is what you need


Quick there is a public defender. The best there ever was public defender will take you there. The public defender are the finer things in lifeQuick there is a public defender. The best there ever was public defender will take you there. The public defender are the finer things in life

Thanks, robot zombies. Tell my clients. I'll be here all week.

WA: standard legal financial obligations

Transparent Grid links to this NY Times article which mentions the many ways the State of Washington seeks to shake the pennies out of my clients:

Washington has one of the longest lists of fees assessed to criminals, and it is diligent in trying to collect them...

...$1,000 for a county "drug enforcement fund," a $500 "victim assessment fee" and $110 in court costs...

In Washington State, people convicted of certain crimes are also charged $100 so their DNA can be put in a database...

...even relatively small fees — $40 per session, say, for a court-ordered anger management class or $15 for a drug test — can have devastating consequences for people who emerge from prison with no money, credit or prospects, and who live in fear of being sent back for failing to pay...

Blood from a turnip, water from a stone...

February 22, 2006

NM: an everyday kind of hero

Real-life Role Model: The other side - She's devoted her life to justice, traveling the state to fight for accused killers from the fringes of society

Lelia Hood sits eyeball to eyeball with men and women who give most people nightmares.

They are people like Zacharia Craig, a mentally deficient man accused of running down a State Police officer in 2001; Phillip Busey, a transient who could face the death penalty if convicted of raping and bludgeoning a Nob Hill woman last year; and Karen Smallwood, who is also facing execution if convicted of killing a young Santa Fe mother in 2004.

Hood is their ally and, in most cases, the only hope they have for avoiding lethal injection or a prison sentence that could put them away for the rest of their lives.

It's a role Hood, 46, does not take lightly. Indeed, if she were any more passionate about being a public defender in the state Capital Crimes Unit, she could easily overwhelm a courtroom...

February 21, 2006

This is like so totally unjust

I feel for the public defender who had this client: tell him the state's offering to reduce the charge to a speeding ticket, and get an earful of "they can't make any of this bullsh*t stick to me."

February 20, 2006

Condescension-toward-p.-d.s watch

Go, Feige, go! The indefensible one is righteously furious about this NY Times piece of disrespect toward us public defenders, "Lawyers Compete to Represent an Unprepossessing Client".

"Government-sponsored meal ticket?" "Potential ticket into the history books?" Yeah, that's exactly how a salaried line public defender like me is sizing up each client. Where do they get reporters and editors like this? And where are the Jimmy Breslins and Jack Newfields of yesteryear?

Update: some informed perspective - and some haiku - from David Giacalone. Good stuff, but for the record, I am not a 'hard-nosed' public defender; I am in fact a 'Pillsbury Doughboy' public defender.

GA: Griffin gets a new chief p.d.

Hey, I have a criminal defense brother-in-law in Peachtree City who's tops at what he does, so I perked up when I saw this headline. Turns out to be a different good guy:

PTC attorney named top public defender

Longtime Peachtree City defense attorney Joe Saia has been named the Chief Public Defender of the Griffin Judicial Circuit...

Saia had been in private practice in Peachtree City since 1977 until he joined the public defender’s office when it was created last year. Tammy Jacobs had been serving as the interim chief public defender in the absence of former chief public defender Arthur English, who resigned in late November.

So ends (for now) the story of Arthur English's very bad year.

February 17, 2006

UT: passing strange

In an ongoing murder case, this is a somewhat odd development, and not just because it's from Utah. The Desperate News reports:

Judge dismisses a lawyer in 1984 murder case
- But it's not one who was once arrested in witness tampering

Wade Garrett Maughan can keep only one of his current lawyers, a... judge decided Wednesday. Scott Williams won't belong to Maughan's defense team after Feb. 22. A new lead counsel will be appointed to work the case alongside Richard Mauro, who was arrested and briefly jailed in Spokane, Wash., on investigation of witness tampering in December.

Maughan is charged in 1st District Court with aggravated murder, a capital felony, from the May 1984 slaying of Bradley Newell Perry... Maughan was arrested in Spokane and charged in November...

When Mauro and an investigator... went to Spokane in December to interview people to whom Maughan had reportedly confessed the killing, they told the witnesses they didn't have to talk to anybody about the case. Mauro's attorney, Ken Brown, maintains that Mauro only meant the witnesses shouldn't talk to each other and possibly taint their upcoming testimonies...

Judge Ben Hadfield said there is "at least a reasonable possibility that either a serious violation of law or ethical standards occurred" when Mauro told witnesses they didn't have to talk to anybody shortly before police arrived. It was possibly a breach of ethics because Mauro isn't the attorney representing the witnesses...

Um, okay, but previously the prosecutor

...filed a motion to disqualify Maughan's attorneys, and in Hadfield's decision on the motion the judge said he doesn't believe Mauro committed wrongdoing. "On the contrary, this court's prior dealings with both defense counsel have all been positive," he said. "The court finds today only that there is a reasonable possibility that witness tampering occurred."

Hadfield said Maughan could keep one of his attorneys. Maughan chose to keep Mauro. "It's a very unusual and perplexing and strange ruling," Brown said afterward.

February 16, 2006

Return of an ethical attorney

Those must have been some thought-provoking discussions among the disciplinary lawyers:

Specifically, the APRL meeting included an excellent program titled “Prosecution Ethics: Do Prosecutors Seek Justice or Merely Convictions?”...

Meanwhile... the members of NOBC were listening to a presentation about the unique ethical challenges faced by lawyers who work in under-staffed, under-funded public defender offices... That program discussed whether public defenders should be held to a more lenient standard regarding the ethical duties of competence, diligence and client communication, in light of the circumstances in which they practice...

The post is from "Ben Cowgill on Legal Ethics." It's good news for all of us that Mr. Cowgill has resumed blogging. Professor Giacalone is jubilant.

Down and out in Seattle and King County

Dawn comes soon enough for the working class...

Surprising face of working poor
Their jobs allow them to barely hang on in city -- and they're all around

Surprising to whom, latte boy? And what's with the "they're all around"? All around like rats? All around like under the bed? Yikes, it's "those people"! They're everywhere, and what's more, they're multiplying!

Here's what isn't a surprise:

One factor contributing to the invisibility of the working poor in this region is that the "relative 'haves' don't tend to interact with the relative 'have-lesses,' " said Steve Williamson of the King County Labor Council. "People don't realize they could be one paycheck away."

So much for solidarity. It's the latest in a series of dispatches from a land where "we love humanity, it's individual people we can't stand":

Despite Seattle's reputation for "niceness" and its heritage as a working-class city, however, some residents expressed frustration with the working poor. Readers suggested they should be living doubled up and out of view, taking the bus in from the outlying areas where they can afford housing so they don't clog our roads, and keeping out of emergency rooms so they don't drive up health care costs for everyone.

Or keeping them in jail for, you know, clogging up the sidewalks.

(Bonus links: The Magic Nine Factors That Cause the "Seattle Chill" and "The Have-Nots" by the incomparable X)

February 15, 2006

WA: crime wave

Pleasepleaseplease don't assign this to me:

Olympia jail has new case of urine attack

That is all.

AK: Alaskablawg mistrial

Waterman murder trial ends without a verdict - MISTRIAL: Prosecution weighs whether to retry teen accused in death of mother

Waterman wept at the defense table after the judge left the courtroom. Her defense attorney, Steven Wells, consoled her. Later, as she was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, Wells told her distraught father, Carl "Doc" Waterman, "She's not guilty. You know she's not guilty."

Attorneys from both sides said they were disappointed jurors did not find in their favor. But outside the courtroom, Wells said he considered a hung jury a win for the defense.

Wells said public opinion was swayed against his client by police statements made in the weeks following her arrest, but the trial was a chance to show Waterman's perspective.

"And the jury did not walk away with a conviction," he said. "That is a huge win for us."

Wells has asked that all charges against Waterman be dropped. The judge has requested written briefs on his motion and will take up the issue at a hearing March 7.

10 to 2 for acquittal? A great lawyer blogs among us.

February 13, 2006

Romantic viewing

After the cards and the flowers, spend this Valentine's Day with PBS:

FRONTLINE: The Meth Epidemic
coming Feb. 14, 2006 at 9pm (check local listings)

Because nothing says "I love you" like sharing an eight-ball with your sweetie.

Opening mouth, fearing what might pop out

Two thoughts today on that which is said, and that which is not said.

First there's GentleEleos, with a nice long reflection on what she says, and what she might like to say, to the public defender clients who tell her they can't go to jail, they just can't.

Then there's my colleague the private p.d. contractor, who told the judge this morning, "We have a conflict; my client would like a different lawyer, and I would like a different client."

February 12, 2006

WA: lawyer shot by ex-prosecutor dies

Bellevue lawyer shot by rival in 2004 dies:

Kevin Jung, the Bellevue attorney shot in the head by a rival lawyer in 2004, died on Saturday of complications from his injuries. Jung, 45, was well-known in the local Korean community for his law practice and advocacy work. Before the shooting, he lived in Southeast Bellevue with his wife, Sally, and two young sons...

William Joice, the lawyer who confessed to the shooting, is serving a 32-year prison sentence for attempted first-degree murder. It is unclear whether the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office will bring him up on murder charges now that Jung has died...

Tough beans

Here's a juror's first-hand report from a criminal trial that started over less than a hill of beans, and a description of one of the lawyers:

Greasy defense attorney (who I almost felt sorry for because he had nothing at all to work with)

I hardly ever can convert this sympathy for my position into a not-guilty for my client, but I hope I've got the grease thing under control. If I had a client who felt this strongly about getting beans on a combination plate in a Mexican restaurant, I'd probably have to conflict myself out - some people I just can't defend.

(Link via Angry Pregnant Lawyer)

Off-topic: citius, altius, fortius

My trial set for Monday settled last Friday. As for me and my house, we've been basking in this stuff that I vaguely recall from my sagebrush days as "sunshine." When we haven't, we've been feasting on endless Winter Olympics coverage on NBC and CBC. It took my wife and me back to that Brigadoon-like moment four years ago when Salt Lake was hip and happening, a day when we went from seeing sweet Croatian Janica Kostelić going downhill way faster than human knees were intended, to cracking wise to a CBC reporter about America's sweethearts Salé and Pelletier.

Watching the CBC Olympics coverage on cable has been pretty great. Where else could I not feel guilty for cheering when the American luger got bumped from the bronze by the plucky Latvian Mārtiņš Rubenis? I for one welcome our new Canadian overloads.

AK: the waiting is the hardest part

Steve of Alaskablawg is a mindful guy, and I would've loved to have seen him in action in his latest high-profile trial.

While his jury's out, he's doing some good recharging, with wine, glaciers, and Tom Petty lyrics. Don't let it kill ya, baby...

February 11, 2006

TN: in defense of "defending those people"

Karla Gothard: How She Defends "Those People":

Chief Assistant District Public Defender Karla Gothard said people frequently ask her how she is able to defend “those people...”

“(B)ehind each headline or label, there is a human being with a story. When I look across the table at a client, I see a spark of God in them. I want to know who they are...”

“As a defender I tell the jury that it is like they are looking at a window with a shade pulled over it. A hole is poked in the shade and what they see through the whole is all they see of a whole life. My job is to lift the window shade up, so they can better see the client’s story...”

February 09, 2006

WA: area residents dazed, confused by warm shiny object in sky

I left the courthouse (motto: "Imagine a courthouse designed by Ewoks"), rolled the window down and drove around positively giddy from the warmth of the sun, a thing not seen around these parts since, oh, November or so.

The Mountain was out, the Olympics were out, the Russian sailors were in port, and I had to take photos of it all because the sky was just so darn blue. My mental soundtrack was playing "you're my blue sky, you're my sunny day" and "a dreaded sunny day, so let's go where we're happy..."

Then it started getting dark, at a decent hour like 6:00 p.m., not 3:30 as it's seemed all this long South Sound winter, so with thoughts of spring I headed home toward my side of town.


Here's Songius of Simplicity and Access, a law student who learned the big lesson that wasn't going to be on the exam:

... To illustrate a point, our professor, a lawyer with MANY years experience as a public defender, used the example of a murder trial he was part of...

...(A) philanthropist took in a drug addict during the addict's rehab program. The philanthropist, a wealthy widow, paid the addict well for doing domestic work until she could find a job and get on her feet. The addict found a job, then decided to return to the widow's home beat her severely, then strangle her with her own belt because of some jewelry she'd observed the philanthropist wear...

You could see the horror in the professor's eyes. He said that the addict was the most frightening person he ever helped represent, and when you consider his career, that's saying something (30 years as a public defender). He was sharing something of himself, really trying to attain catharsis. He was communicating that OTHER thing that doesn't come from statutes and case books...

I can't see this future lawyer yukking it up over a murder case. Kudos! Somebody needs to hire this good person, if just for paying attention to the gravity and darkness that comes with criminal lawyering when everyone else in class is web-surfing.

Now, as Songius says, "to lighten the mood, here's a badger":

February 08, 2006

Seattle lawyer to oversee Central Washington p.d. overhaul

Attorney to monitor county's public defense system - Robinson selected to ensure Grant County in compliance with settlement:

A Seattle attorney selected by the American Civil Liberties Union and Grant County will monitor the county's public defender system for compliance with a settlement agreement reached in November of last year.

Attorney Jeffery Robinson's five- to- six-year assignment monitoring the county marks the first instance of a county's public defense system being subjected to comprehensive monitoring in Washington, according to an ACLU news release.

This is a singularly positive development. If you'e curious about how benighted public defense used to be in Ephrata / Soap Lake / Moses Lake, I've got a whole mess of old posts about it.

I have good hopes for public 'buy-in' of these needed reforms by the bench and bar in Grant County. All the same, on the dry side of the Cascade Curtain, the phrase "a Seattle attorney" ranks second only to "liberal Seattle psychiatrist" in public esteem. Add "ACLU," and you have all the fixin's for some Red State-style resentment. I'm amused by the subtle signs in this Ephrata - authored article that the east-west divide is still very much alive:

To agree on a monitor, Grant County interviewed five attorneys picked by the ACLU. The county was able to eliminate three candidates. The ACLU chose Robinson from the remaining two candidates, said Grant County Commissioner LeRoy Allison. All five candidates reside in Western Washington...

Well, I'm sure that's because there were absolutely no qualified lawyers east of Snoqualmie Pass, and no suitable peacekeepers from Yakima or Spokane. Puget Sound people are generally tone-deaf to how eastern Washingtonians rankle at manifestations of Seattle attitude. (okay, Seattle-ites, in unison now: "there is no Seattle attitude!")

One last thing:

Allison said the county was enforcing caseload limits, with a "soft cap" of 204 felony cases annually for public defenders. The ACLU, however, wanted the attorneys limited to 150 felony cases each year, which Allison said the county currently meets...

Where can I get one of those soft caps? I bet they're very stylin'.

WA: public defense update

Ripped from the pages of the Washington State Bar Association Bar News:

Improving Public Defense — Working Together to Fulfill Gideon’s Promise

and something I did not know:

"Washington state prides itself on having a just legal system and one that protects innocence."

It's the water

All the usual parking places at the courthouse were taken, even the overflow parking (maybe because of the murder trial), so I finally wedged in to an unfamiliar spot. When I came out of the jail, here's what I saw:

I love living here.

February 07, 2006

Do I believe you?

A good one from St. Yves of PhilosophicaLawyer:

Believing your clients

We all know it's a bad thing when you're innocent and your lawyer thinks you're guilty. That doesn't make it a good thing when you're guilty and your lawyer thinks you're innocent.

TN: pissing (or something) contest

Please, please, if you are an assistant public defender, please count to ten and inform your supervisor before you send a letter to the county sheriff like this one (pdf file).

Otherwise, not only do you, your clients, and everybody else who need to go to jail visiting get to pay when the retaliation comes down, you get to look like a buffoon on the sheriff's website.

(thanks to KnoxNews Blogs' No Silence Here.)

WA: 12th man(slaughter)

Judge ‘regrets’ Hawks cheer - Pierce official apologizes for actions during manslaughter sentencing:

The Pierce County Superior Court judge who led a cheer for the Seattle Seahawks during a manslaughter sentencing Friday has apologized...

Judge Beverly Grant opened Friday’s sentencing hearing for Steve Keo Teang by asking everyone in the courtroom to say, “Go Seahawks” before they sat down. When their response was too restrained, she asked them to do it again...

February 06, 2006

Parallel parking

"Even we criminal defense attorneys generally do not like to go to jail. That is right, my lawyering be damned. The most important skill I needed was parking not advocacy."

From Funny Yet Accurate, "A Story with a Very Forced Point," with this friendly warning to would-be public defender interns:

"Insult my parking skills and you too may become a law school drop out."

Blue Monday

That's the banner headline on the local paper.

Imagine if you were my colleague, who has a Seahawks pennant on his office wall and a murder trial starting today. Poor guy.

Thank goodness Animal Planet re-ran Puppy Bowl II after the game. Sancho's right: that Barry the poodle deserved a good thumping. I'm a springer spaniel fan myself.

Fortunately, to get over that other game, here on the Sound we have Handy Talking Points For Super Bore Monday:

"That old line about cockroaches and Keith Richards surviving a nuclear holocaust? I'm betting on the roaches now."

and the satisfaction that we can

"look on the bright side: if there hadn't been a few bad calls and we'd lost anyway, there'd be no excuse."

February 05, 2006

FL: eulogy for a good appellate p.d.

In Tally:

Public defender Doug Brinkmeyer dies at 56

Attorneys don't get rich as public defenders. But they enrich the lives of others.

That's how people remembered Doug Brinkmeyer, 56, after he died early Thursday morning after a yearlong battle with cancer. Brinkmeyer, a 1975 graduate of Florida State's law school, spent his entire professional career as a public defender...

P.D. on the verge of going postal

Interesting, and occasionally head-scratching perspective from a disgruntled public defender who's studying for the Alaska bar and dreaming of the day he arrives in the Great Land. And some pretty good disgruntlement it is - man, he's had it!

He does have a pretty good recommendation for dealing with job-related discontent: watch The Shawshank Redemption. Again and again.

Sir, might I also suggest regular visits to the photo section of Alaskablawg? Hang in there.

(Now I remember that this guy's blog is also where I saw that frog-in-boiling-water image.)

Off-topic: we wuz robbed!

The courtroom's not the only place to find bogus officiating; consider Arbitrary and Capricious Bowl XL.

Please excuse me while I mentally replay the game with a different set of refs. In the meantime, please enjoy this much-more-satisfying footballesque commentary on how the Ramones came out on top of the 32-band championship series of American rock-n-roll, from Pennsylvania's Michael Bérubé, of whose sports-writing expertise has been said, "you cannot stop him, you can only hope to contain him."

A good answer

From CrimBlog:

How can you represent someone that you know is guilty?

Again, this answer will vary for different people. For me, it comes in part from my religious beliefs. I believe that God wants us to love all humankind, and that we should try to see the spark of God’s creation in everyone. Everyone should have somebody who is on their side, even when they’ve made a mistake—even if it’s a terrible mistake. I’m lucky enough to have had family and friends in my life who gave me unconditional love and support. Many of my clients have never had anyone who would stand by them like this. Also, I’m a crabby, anti-authoritarian troublemaker, who just likes “stickin’ it to The Man.”

CA: from cop to p.d.

Ex-cop, now public defender, draws ire

By most measures, Deputy Public Defender Ed Obayashi has had an unusual career path. For more than 15 years he was a beat cop with the San Diego Police Department. Then he went to law school, earned his degree and entered practice.

What's unusual is the type of law he chose, and for whom he works. Obayashi is a criminal defense lawyer with the county Public Defender's Office...

That career path has drawn the ire of some of his former colleagues, and those feelings surfaced in December when a lawyer who represents the San Diego Police Officers Association... wrote a barbed commentary in “The Informant,” the union's monthly publication...

February 04, 2006

WA: from p.d. frying pan to pro se fire

From Yakima, a reminder: the judge and jury always see and always pick up on the behavior displayed at counsel table:

Defendant — and attorney

A Yakima County jury began hearing testimony in the murder trial of a man accused of the ultimate act of domestic violence — beating and stomping to death his girlfriend in a drunken rage. Kenith Wayne Sherrill, 59, is representing himself on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Teressa Lynn Hilton, 39...

Although the facts of the case are not particularly unusual, it is unusual for a defendant to represent himself on a murder charge... Self-representation in a murder case is rare and was allowed only after pre-trial hearings during which Sherrill repeatedly accused court-appointed attorney Tim Cotterell of "prosecuting" him.

I've seen this sort of expression before on other defendants in court, but I can't quite interpret it. Controlling and confident? Or contemptuous and clueless? He puts me in mind of the proverbial frog in a pot over a slow flame, who doesn't notice as the water comes up to a boil.

February 03, 2006

MT: re-apply and get in line

Team-building and morale building in Montana...

State eliminating top positions in public defender offices:

All of the chief public defenders and deputy chief public defenders in Montana's counties will lose their jobs July 1.

Montana Chief Public Defender Randi Hood eliminated the top two positions in all of the state's public defenders' offices as part of a new statewide public defense system.

"There is no place in this structure for what are known as chief public defenders and deputy chief public defenders," Hood wrote in a letter to Gallatin County's Chief Public Defender Mariah Eastman. "You, and anyone else so designated ... will not be coming into the new system on July 1," she wrote.

And then she sealed the letter with a big kiss.

Over in Great Falls, not waiting for obsolescence, the chief public defender dusted off his copy of "What Color is Your Parachute?" and made the leap to the state office early, leaving the county in a bit of a lurch.

Public defender resigns:

The resignation of the county's chief public defender stirred concern among Cascade County Commissioners Wednesday as Montana makes the transition to a new state-run public defender system.

(Curiously, my resignation as my county's chief public defender stirred nothing but a spontaneous dance of a merry jig.)

Chief Public Defender Eric Olson announced Tuesday that he is taking a job as the training coordinator with the state's new public-defender system. He begins March 1 in Missoula.

The state is scheduled to take control of the public's legal representation five months from now. In the meantime, county commissioners must hire an attorney to cover the chief defender's overwhelming caseload... "It's an unexpected issue before us," County Commissioner Joe Briggs said.

The 2005 Legislature voted to implement a statewide public defender system — headquartered in Butte and set to begin July 1... The state will be divided into 11 regions, with Cascade County falling into the 9th District. Randi Hood of Helena was named the state's Chief Public Defender in October 2005. A regional administrator will head each of the 11 regions districts.

In the meantime, commissioners agree they are stuck hiring a public defender, but can't guarantee that the person will still have a job five months down the road when the state takes over.

Attorney General Mike McGrath issued an opinion in December saying that the law does not require the new state public defender system to retain any of the current public defenders.

"We are concerned about our employees and how they are treated in the changeover," Commissioner Peggy Beltrone said.

Beltrone hopes the state will participate in the hiring process so that the new defender has a better chance of keeping their job under the state it takes over.

Otherwise, "Who will apply?" she asked.

Well, would you?

BiH: some technicality

Neither this headline nor this first paragraph from Reuters are accurate:

Bosnia war crimes suspect walks on technicality

A Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect whose wife was killed in a shootout with European Union soldiers during his arrest in January is to go free on a legal technicality, Bosnia's state court said on Thursday.

Of course the court said no such thing as "legal technicality," and the FBiH news agency in Sarajevo, which might have some cause to be upset by the result, says nothing about a technicality.

Here's what happened:

The BiH War Crimes Chamber cancelled detention to Dragomir Abazovic and ordered that he be released immediately, the Court of BiH stated. Acting on the appeal by the suspect the BiH War Crimes Chamber decided that the detention ordered by the Cantonal Court in Sarajevo, which was done before the case was taken over by the Court of BiH, was not based on the BiH Criminal Code as the relevant legislation.

Or in more idiomatic English:

Abazovic was arrested on a old warrant that was no longer valid because Bosnia had since established its own war crimes court and relevant legislation. "Since the state court took over the case in July 2005, the Criminal Procedure Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the relevant law in this matter," spokesman Dino Bjelopoljak said.

The Reuters slant is familiar to those of us defending accused people stateside. It cheapens a part of something that was fairly hard-won, the Criminal Procedure Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a fairly crucial component of Bosnia's stabilization under the rule of law.

I was life-changingly lucky to enjoy two lengthy stays among our Bosnian criminal defense colleagues. Talking in terms of technicalities, about a commitment to legal norms for which many of them paid a harrowing price in war, disrespects them.

: here is more in-depth coverage from International Crimes Blog and Jurist.

CO: mentally ill, in jail

Mental Block - County inmates battle system, own demons:

Wearing a screaming-orange jumpsuit and shackles around his ankles, Dave describes what it is like to get anxious, to experience massive mood swings, to reach euphoric highs then hit crippling lows as an inmate in the Douglas County Jail. "I can't sleep," he said, shifting in his bright blue chair. "Thoughts race through my head. I make terrible choices. Impulsive."

He is not alone. About 70 percent of the inmates housed at the Douglas County Jail show signs of mental illness...

It's disheartening, as is this quote:

"Many [with mental illnesses] stay incarcerated longer because they don't navigate the public defender system well... It's a problem nationally. The problem is not that they are huge criminals who need to be incarcerated for a long time, they just don't navigate the system as well as their counterparts without mental illnesses."

February 02, 2006

Remember me to 4th and Shoshone

Well, I'll be, they still think of me back at the old high desert public defender office, or at least they created the no-blogging policy in my honor.

As time has passed, 2004's fairly innocuous mention of the "Donahue method" of picking juries (a phrase I heard repeated just this Monday by a Superior Court judge to a jury pool) has transmuted in 2006's local lore to "unflattering opinions about a local judge." Oh well, Judge Bevan knows how deeply I respect him; I told him so after he read that old post, in the same way I wrote the governor when he was up for the judicial appointment.

As for you, C., sorry you can't blog about your work life due to me.

by disabling a link, to protect the innocent.)

February 01, 2006

P.D. hot or not?

Remember that discussion we were having about whether public defenders are better looking than prosecutors? Here's some additional photographic evidence from an actual customer -

law & (a side) order (of hot public defender) :

i wonder if that hot public defender does personal assistant work on the side.

dare to dream.

Can't wait to see all the hits from the multitudes who are googling the phrase "hot public defender" !

US News takes notice

Good to see (I think) that this generally tough-on-crime magazine has covered some examples of problems in the public defender part of the system:

When the Poor Go to Court - across the nation, many indigents wind up being sentenced to jail time without ever seeing a lawyer

Concern for accused poor people in the pages of US News - that's newsworthy.