February 28, 2007

What we talk about when we're talking before drug court

Here's an inside look at the drug court meeting that takes place before anyone says "all rise," from the point of view of a substance abuse counselor:

This your brain. This is your brain on drug court.

I make a case for allowing my relapsed client an extra week of opt in time, based on her maintaining abstinence. The judge agrees with the stipulation that if she is dirty again, she gets remanded to jail. I am a bit taken back by this. For most of my career doing substance abuse treatment, I have worked from a harm reduction approach. My client is med compliant, trying hard in her out patient program, in CalWorks, stable after a 20+ year history of paranoid schizophrenia, heavy alcohol use, and frequent trips to PES and jail - but this does not matter. If she uses again she goes back to jail. Misguided drug policy, ahoy!

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

For getting an unpaid public defender position and all, this law student is very enthusiastic:

And who should be on that voice mail? The Public Defender I interviewed with... Who by the way is the coolest human being ever. And he's asking me if I want the job. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Congratulations, and share some of that upbeat attitude with your new co-workers.

February 27, 2007

A public defender's prayer

Sent to me from a peachy p.d colleague down in Macon, GA:

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray dear God, just give me some peace. If I die before I wake, who'll handle my bond calendar in the morning? What will happen if I can't find my 15 missing clients before their trials Monday morning? How will I ever get that motion for new trial finished before next week? What about all those people sitting in jail counting on me? Oh wait, right, sorry God, I got distracted....now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord for just one night's rest and the peace of mind to know I've done my best. If I die before I wake, I just pray some other public defender can read my notes. Amen.

(Good old Macon! Home of the National Criminal Defense College - best CLE ever - and the Allman Brothers Band too.)

February 26, 2007

For a British p.d., a lump of coal

In the UK, as the Public Defender Service closes offices and management cheerily proclaims The Way Ahead, our Newcastle colleague at "The Dharma Blues" is more than a bit dharma bummed:

How my employers announced i had lost my job...

In one month, I will be officially unemployed as my office is closing down. My clients abandoned to the local sharks...

I have been offered the chance to relocate to the mobile lawyers unit providing cover throughout England and Wales. Alternatively, I can apply for the position of Project Assistant for the LSC in London...

I really won't mind working in a coffee shop for a bit...


I know that job woes can make you knooled, but in my mental picture of the Mobile Lawyers Unit, the barristers are quite dashing, knights-errant racing from shire to shire, armed with nothing but their wits and their laptops. Best wishes.

February 22, 2007

That same reoccuring p.d. dream

Legally Brunette on:

How I Know I've Been Spending Too Much Time With the Public Defenders

Each time I woke up, I had dreamed the same Four Things. I'm a little weirded out...

Whatever happened to visions of sugarplums dancing in my head???


Allow me:

" 'These are the guilty!' he announced, happily"

Law student Sfrajett receives an annuciation at the Public Interest Job Fair:

I spoke with people at legal aid clinics, child services, and the public defender's office--all lovely, friendly, skeptical people who loved their work...

A little man with white hair that stood out in wispy strands around his face shook my hand. His baggy sweater hung on his shoulders... "Do you know what we do?" he asked.

I confessed that I didn't... He nodded his head, satisfied. "We do post-conviction habeas petitions for people on death row."

"Fabulous!" I breathed. I couldn't help it. It just came out...


Read on for how things go from there.

Bonus links: "Hey man, my school day's insane /
Hey man, my work's down the drain..."

February 19, 2007

OR: the glories of Stumptown

For twelve years we've taken a road trip on our anniversary. This year we were back in Portland, savoring the burek and the sarma at the Two Brothers Serbian Cafe, introducing the boy to the joys of the children's section of Powell's City of Books, and wondering how a big statute of Joan of Arc got to the middle of 39th and Glisan.

Fun fact: there's a neighborhood in Portland called Boise, but there is no neighborhood in Boise called Portland (though Boise could use one).

February 15, 2007

WA: "affordable housing is an anti-crime program"

An uncommon prosecutorial point of view from the Seattle city attorney, in the Seattle Times:

Fight crime, addiction with housing

I thought about Herman James all day. I prosecuted him back in September of last year in the Seattle Municipal Community Court... My records and the court's records say that I was there; yet, I cannot remember his face among the many street alcoholics I have seen over the past two years.

A few weeks ago, I received a DVD of a Seattle Channel program about the community court... (L)ate one night, I popped it into the DVD drive on my laptop. That's when I met Herman James.

He spoke eloquently about his life as an alcoholic and about the help he had received. He was living at 1811 Eastlake, a controversial program that provides housing for long-term alcoholics without requiring abstinence or sobriety. Although he was permitted to drink in his apartment, he, like many of the residents there, had chosen to be sober...

James died Jan. 15...

Being in court and meeting the defendants who commit what we refer to as quality-of-life crimes is a transforming experience. It's so easy to demonize those whom you do not know. They seem so much more human when one hears their stories. They are criminals, but they are also people first and when treated as such can thrive.

I do not recall Herman James as the street alcoholic whom I prosecuted. I will remember him, however, as a good soul who died with dignity among people who cared, because he got help through the Seattle Municipal Community Court and 1811 Eastlake. He died sober, without the crutch of alcohol, with a roof over his head...

February 14, 2007

OR: "I too was abducted and stripped of my freedom"

This week Project Hamad has a guest post from Brandon Mayfield, who knows something first-hand about false accusations and unjust incarceration:

His story is a cautionary one for anyone who thinks the suspension of habeas corpus, or the passage of the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), have no implications for the civil rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens. A Kansas-born U.S. citizen, a former Army lieutenant, an attorney in Portland, Oregon, Brandon Mayfield was wrongly accused and incarcerated for the terrorist bombings in Madrid, Spain...

ID: ETOH the equalizer

Lindsay Lou at my old law school observes:

If there was one thing I learned from my summer at a public defender's office, it was that the best dressed PD clients in the courtroom are probably facing DUI charges. Why? Because... (i)t affects everyone. Even the children of United State Supreme Court justices.

February 13, 2007

The spaniels win the pennant!

Tonight in New York, James the English Springer Spaniel won Best in Show at Westminster.

Tonight in the South Sound, Trevor the English Springer Spaniel held his head up just a little bit higher for a moment before going back to sleep.

UT: Trolley Square tragedy

My heart goes out to the families of the people who were killed and wounded last night at Trolley Square. I know the place fairly well, visiting it regularly during the summer I worked one block north, back when Utah Legal Services was on 400 South, and frequently on many trips to Salt Lake before and since. I respect the response of law enforcement, particularly that of the off-duty cop on a date with his wife, who took on the killer and probably saved several lives.

My scorn goes out to the trolls trying to score political points off this tragedy, hateful conjecture springing from nothing but the Bosniak ("Bosnian Muslim") name of the shooter, Sulejman Talović, age 18. Police have no motive in the shooting, but that doesn't stop some bloggers. I'm not going to link to the stuff - you can Google it yourself if you must.

Voices from 5th South and 7th East:

From the Salt Lake Tribune,Rebecca Walsh: When can we return to Trolley Square?

The violence we like to believe only plagues places like Tacoma and Columbine settled in Salt Lake City... In my mind, Valley Mental Health Director Debra Falvo struck the right tone as she reminded us Talovic has a horrified family too, two Bosnian immigrant parents who fled their war-torn country and settled in Utah in the hope of giving their children a peaceful life. It wasn't to be. "There is a family out there that also will need the support of the community," Falvo said, choking up...

From The Third Avenue, A generation raised by violence

The shooter was an 18-year old Bosnian immigrant, which means he was born in 1989. It also means that if he grew up in Bosnia, he lived through two
(sic) genocides... He might have seen people being brutally murdered by their neighbors for no real reason at all. I am not saying this to excuse his actions, far from it. I am speculating like this to show the consequences of allowing children to be victims of and witnesses to massive violence and war.

This is the second time in a few months that a young man from the former Yugoslavia acted out with random violent rage. The first time, Salt Lake got lucky, and no one was hurt [the SLC library bombing]. This time, obviously, was far worse...


(but see Part of the Plan, Trolley Square Shooter: Victim or Terrorist?)

From Tales of Wit and Charm, the smell of cheap bar soap, or the day i didn't die at trolley square...

if i don't smell like warm vanilla sugar tomorrow you'll have to forgive me. you see, i ran out of shower gel and lotion this morning and when i stopped by trolley square tonight to pick some up, the only thing i picked up was the feeling of terror...

Update 02/15, from the Deseret News, A child of violence: Talovic survived genocide:

As a little boy in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sulejman Talovic hid in fear from the Serb military forces who were slaughtering Muslim men and boys as war and genocide ravaged his country. Years later, the 18-year-old slaughtered five people in Salt Lake City's Trolley Square mall before dying in a shootout with police officers...

And see Spy the News, Blogs, Radio Talkers Use Mall Killer's Muslim Affiliation for Shock Value: Ignore Youth's Traumatic Escape from Bosnian Genocide

February 12, 2007

New interview series at P.D. Stuff

Today Public Defender Stuff kicks off Monday Musings, a new series of e-mail Q's and A's with criminal defense bloggers, starting with David Feige, author of "Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice."

Enjoy "Monday Musings" now (before I get interviewed).

February 11, 2007

Skelly Wright on the national security state

Undoubtedly the President... is imbued with vast and indispensable powers... including the duty to protect this country from foreign aggression or subversion. The very existence of such tremendous power, however, renders it susceptible to abuse and endangers those fundamental personal liberties which the Government was instituted to secure for its citizens and whose exercise elevates the nation to a stature worthy of defense. Thus, although the attempt to claim executive prerogatives or infringe liberty in the name of security and order may be motivated by the highest of ideals, the judiciary must remain vigilantly prepared to fulfill its own responsibility to channel executive action within constitutional bounds.

- Zweibon v, Mitchell, 516 F. 2d 594 (D.C. Cir. 1975)

Skelly Wright on criminal appeals

A number of principles seem exemplified in... Judge Wright's criminal procedure cases...

The guilty should be punished, and only the guilty. Affirmance should be based on a factually accurate account as to what happened at trial and during the offense; no unnecessary factual presumptions or ambiguous data should be indulged against the accused and his act; acquittal is in order if they deem him either legally or morally innocent. The police, prosecutor and court must observe the accused's constitutional rights. The government may morally condemn the accused only if it has acted morally toward him in the transaction between them.

The court may properly consider the effect of its decision on the immediate parties; an affirmance of conviction is no abstract philosophical judgment, but may result in long imprisonment. The court may also properly consider the effect of its decisions on others, that is, both deterrence of criminality and deterrence of police abuse. The court has a responsibility to reconsider old principles of law, and has a variety of bases of legal authority by which to develop the law.


Martin Levine, "The Great Executive Hand of Criminal Justice," 7 Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 907 (1980), quoted in A "Capacity for Outrage": The Judicial Odyssey of J. Skelly Wright by Arthur Selwyn Miller.

The outrage of J. Skelly Wright

I've spent some time reading A "Capacity for Outrage": The Judicial Odyssey of J. Skelly Wright by Arthur Selwyn Miller, without having to shell out $100 for the privilege.

Thanks to the goodness of Inter-Library Loan, my local library tracked down a copy at my old law school. It's the same copy I checked out over twenty years ago, once I was exposed to the judge in Contracts (remember the quantum meruit case?). The book doesn't seem to have circulated much in the intervening years, which is a pity. Perhaps if Judge Wright were better known today, passages like this wouldn't sound so, well, quaint:

(B)ecause of the Skelly Wrights on our courts, (the American people) repose with confident security, with a knowledge that under the laws of this country there is a limit that oppression cannot transgress, that no governmental entity or individual can punish them without being reviewed by a judgment of a duly constituted court impartially applying the laws of our land.

He was a rare judicial individual:

Judge Wright can be labeled a judicial activist and a judicial realist. He knows that judges inevitably have a certain power in our system and he uses the power to try to help people who need help in our unjust society... I would say that his judicial career has been a paradigm of the way judges should be aware of those excluded from society's benefits.


We may not see his likes again.

February 08, 2007

MTV looks at juvy

From a news release:

MTV News is taking a look inside Indiana's juvenile justice system in the new documentary series MTV Juvies...

MTV.com debuts Life After Juvies, where viewers catch up with the kids from the series after they come out of detention. The weekly series looks at the lives of the subjects today - months after their detention, as they discuss their experiences at the detention center and how it changed their lives and their relationship with their families.

ID: "he had hurt before, but not like this"

From the Times-News:

Standoff ends in suicide - Twin Falls man kills self after 11 hours

An 11-hour standoff ended around 7 p.m. Wednesday when Joshua Barnes, 18, of Twin Falls killed himself... "Joshua Barnes took his own life before he could be taken into custody," Twin Falls Police Capt. Brian Pike said...

Police said Barnes, who was charged with aggravated battery, had barricaded himself... He was accused of stabbing his girlfriend, Whitney Lynn Richardson, 18, Tuesday night...

Barnes was sentenced Jan. 9 to probation after pleading guilty to stabbing his mother with a kitchen knife in August, when he was 17... After his sentencing, Twin Falls County Juvenile Prosecutor Julie Sturgill said Barnes had a long history of alcoholism and violence.

"He had hurt (his mother) before," Sturgill said. "But not like this..." When Barnes pleaded guilty to stabbing his mother he was sentenced as a juvenile to probation. But on Wednesday, deputy prosecuting attorney Rosemary Emory charged him as an adult...


This doesn't require editorializing, suffice to say he could have been one of my young clients.

February 07, 2007

ID: two drug court moms

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

Turning lives around - Drug court helped sisters come back from the brink

Cops gawk like they cannot believe what they are seeing. It's hard not to gawk when these two sisters stroll by like human jungle gyms with seven little children hooked under their arms or scrambling over their shoulders and an 8-month-old sleeping in his stroller.

That's Aleecia Moyes and Jamie Labrum now. But rewind their lives to before they attended 5th Judicial District Felony Drug Court in 2004...

February 06, 2007

"Who the hell are these people?"

A well-to-do law school classmate is chatting with Meewt about her people:

"I worked in the public defenders office and realized - I don't understand the people there. But these gossipy snippy snotty people - that's what I know, so it's where I'm comfortable."

"It feels really good to win"

"I'll take Injustice Anywhere for the win...":

But then, something else unexpected happened... the judge announced that she had to do something before starting back up. After hearing the additional testimony from the officer..., she decided that she must reverse her prior ruling and grant my motion...


It's a good story with a happy ending for our side.

February 05, 2007

ID: voices of drug court

As the Twin Falls Times-News reports,

Some say Drug Court helps; others say it doesn't

Here's a woman who flunked and was sentenced to two years in prison:

"I thought I could get away with it. I tried cheating the system. Yeah, I got away with it at that time but I'm paying for all that now. I got sentenced today for all those screw-ups."

And another woman who's taking care of the kids left behind:

"It's my job to fix what she messed up with those babies. And she gets two to three for ruining the life of those babies?"


Back to the first woman:

"Now there is a glimmer of light. I will make it out. I will be OK. I've come to the realization that if I hadn't done what I did, I wouldn't be where I am today. And every day I'm getting closer to getting out and being with my kids."

Finally, a third woman who's made it and is graduating:

"It gave me a new chance at life. And I'm a mom."


Two years gone from the Magic Valley, and I can still hear clearly each of those voices.

The same paper carries sad news of my judicial tormentor back there. I hope he finds rest.

PD Stuff blogoversary

This weekend Public Defender Stuff turned one year old.

If you haven't yet, why not go over and wish the blog a happy anniversary?

February 03, 2007

Peaceable kingdom cat blogging

Bubba would have you think that he's a tough guy who doesn't like kittens, but every now and then when he thinks no one's looking, you'll find him and Plum sharing the same bed.

AS: pig thieves in paradise

I'm sorry to note that not all is well in American Samoa after all. My fellow Idahoan at Potatoes to Papayas has the story:

Pig Thieves

Just a few days ago, a heinous crime was committed in American Samoa. Three men were charged with killing and then stealing their neighbor's pig. For this despicable crime, they could face up to seven years for stealing, up to five years for property damage and up to six months for trespass. I mean, it's as serious as killing a human being down here, folks!

Poor Wilbur. I agree that this is serious business: one time in these parts, someone killed a neighbor's pig, and we almost went to war with Great Britain.

February 02, 2007

AS: "they drove around a while, then returned to their assigned cell"

With news of a daring escape from the Sing Sing of Pago Pago, here's Weaver at "My Year in American Samoa":

Prison Break

(A) TCF officer reported seeing a large hole in the wall of one of the cells. The hole was created by the two inmates (Sione Muliaga and Suisape Tavete)...

Muliaga said there, they met Muliaga's father, who drove them around for a while before dropping them off at Lions Park, from where they returned to their assigned cell in reverse order of their path of escape...


Weaver comments:

I am not sure why they would need to make a hole, because most of the time the front gate is unlocked.

Paradise.

February 01, 2007

ID: prosecutor's pervy e-mails and pecadillos lead to departure

From the Spokesman-Review:

Kootenai deputy prosecutor resigns

Rick Baughman, the embattled chief deputy prosecutor for Kootenai County, resigned effective today, Prosecutor Bill Douglas told The Spokesman-Review late this afternoon. The news comes after completion of an independent investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Baughman...

Two former female colleagues accused Baughman of inappropriate touching, lewd comments and offers of dates. The investigation was expanded to include county e-mail use following the revelation that Baughman and one of the women, former victims advocate Laura Bonneville, exchanged lewd e-mails...


KXLY has video.