From the comments:
I've been reading your blog and many other PD blogs for years (all through law school). I graduated in May 2006, took and passed the California Bar, and have now been hired as a public defender. I'll start in a few weeks.
I went to law school specifically to become a public defender. I interned in two very different California counties. I'm thrilled my dream is coming true. I'm asking for advice from the seasoned veterans of the PD trenches: What is the best / most important advice you can offer to a "baby PD" like me?
Thanks for any input.
'Til I get back to you, Anonymous, check out the p.d.s on the blogroll, and read the answers to this question in PD Stuff's Monday Musings.
(I swear I've gone home for lunch - I'm not blogging from work!)
March 30, 2007
From the comments:
March 29, 2007
From the bad old days of the Clark County (Las Vegas) public defenders office...
to today: Nevada crim law blog Harmful Error links to the local paper's recent series on LV's contract attorney system for conflicts. It ain't pretty.
Here's another post of note from Harmless Error on a Nevada habeas win for a factually innocent client.
- 11:14 PM
Slate calls him "the reluctant executioner." Crooks and Liars has links to video highlights from TPM Muckraker of D. Kyle Sampson's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Such hubris going in, and then:
the culmination of the hearing, where a very, very tired Kyle Sampson admits that if he had it to do all over again, well...
Surely this has been hard on the fired USA's and their families, too, but I'm feeling a twinge of sympathy for the presumptuous little hack, variations of whom I've known from grade school through law school and beyond.
- 8:33 PM
Mistrial? Mistrial. Case dismissed, but not for the reason you'd think, and not for the reasons the defense wanted.
Tell you more once the story makes The Olympian and OlyBlog. Until then, be careful with your work product and remember, there's no such thing as a "secure listserv."
Bonus link: what do Athens, Ohio and Olympia, Washington have in common? Chapters of SDS, the new group reviving an old brand, Students for a Democratic Society.
Update 3/30/07: it made The Olympian:
The trial of 15 people who protested last year at the Port of Olympia ended in a mistrial Thursday after the judge learned confidential jury information was sent out over a compromised e-mail listserv used by the co-defendants...
Compromised, but not by Homeland Security or law enforcement. Despite the speculation in the article's comment section, this was a screw-up, not a conspiracy, while arguably it could be contempt of court. It was the defense team that posted the juror questionnaire information to the "secure" listserv, which had more subscriber e-mail addresses on it than the number of pro se defendants and defense lawyers.
Olyblog has video and commentary from the scene of the trainwreck:
* Profiles of the jury pool were sent to an email list that included defendants, lawyers, former defendants, and other members of the legal team. The information discussed through email is protected under attorney-client privilege. This information was inadvertently sent to about 10 former defendants.The defense team immediately noted the error and sent an email to unauthorized recipients instructing them to disregard and to delete that email...
* Does it matter how the prosecution obtained the information? Unless it was through illegal means, no crime. Someone from the defense messed up, period. Try another method of communication - Riseup LISTSERV is hardly secure and easily compromised...
- 6:56 PM
March 28, 2007
Best two hours of continuing legal ed ever: "Service Dogs: Our New Partners in Criminal Prosecution."
Now bear with me. Dogs as we know are natural libertarians. I obtained hands-on proof that some staff members of the King County Prosecuting Attorneys Office, like Jeeter and Ellie here, will roll over to get their bellies rubbed by just about anyone, including the odd public defender.
While the dogs primarily are tasked to work with child witnesses, when they're in the courtroom they're available to anyone who could use some canine attention. They don't do suggestibility. Of course there are objections, but I'd sooner have one dog by the witness stand than any victim / witness human. In one trial supposedly, defense counsel scratched one of the dogs behind the ears throughout his cross (which sounds both pleasurable and a good way to neutralize any pro-prosecution "aww" factor). If the accused wanted the dog up on the stand, too, that's allowable they say. These dogs will give you a tail wag and a big brown-eyed gaze no matter which side you're on.
And what great dogs! These weren't nippers, sniffers, scratchers or biters, all of which will wash you out of doggy boot camp, along with begging and an inordinate interest in cats. The dogs I played with were creampuffs, a mix of Labs and Goldens (I was expecting at least one GSD). They have been trained by volunteers (cuteness overload warning: contains many pictures of puppies) for Canine Companions for Independence. I learned their various job categories: service dogs, skilled companions, facility dogs, and (one they don't list on the website) "change of career dogs" for retirees and flunkees. If the puppy you raise can't cut it, you may get to keep it (for an extra $500 fee).
The last part of the seminar was given over to a dog and human play date. Seldom have I had a better time in a CLE, and never before have I left a CLE with my slacks covered in fur.
- 10:12 PM
Updates from the Port of Olympia protesters' trespassing trial, from the Olympian:
Prosecutor’s comment prompts mistrial review - Attorneys for defendants call foul over mention of gate
(Andrew Yankey, who chose to represent himself in the trial of 17 people charged with trespassing on secure Port of Olympia property during a protest last year, reacts to an objection from the prosecuting attorney during his opening statement to the jury Monday evening, March 26, 2007 in judge Dubuisson's courtroom.)
Judge rebuffs defense in port trial
The deputy is not the only one praying for the trial to be over soon, but plan on it to go way into next week (unless something else mistrial-able comes up).
- 7:01 PM
March 26, 2007
Greetings from Seattle and the Children's Justice Conference, where intentions are good and defense lawyers are scarce.
Today's keynote speaker was Regina Louise, a foster care survivor, joined on stage today by the one person as she was growing up in the system who cared.
- 7:50 PM
March 24, 2007
Even though Brigham Young University's commencement speaker this year is Dick Cheney (great timing! topical and cringe-inducing!), it's not like everybody from BYU is defending the disgraced Bush administration ward heeler D. Kyle Sampson, or sharing the sort of mind-set that produces headlines such as "BYU Grad Falls Victim to Attorney Purge."
From the BYU NewsNet readers forum:
In "BYU alumni Sampson resigns in controversy" (March 18) on Kyle Sampson's abrupt exit from the Justice Department professor Earl Fry is quoted as saying Sampson is "a good man with a lot of integrity ... a good soldier who has fallen on his sword in order to protect his boss, the attorney general."
I may be missing something here, but it seems to me Sampson is covering for an attorney general who fires U.S. attorneys based on their investigations of his political allies (after he told Congress under oath he would do no such thing), who uses his clout with President Bush to get Bush to deny security clearance to those tasked with investigating his alleged crimes in the illegal wiretap cases, and above all who destroys the sacred Constitution of the United States in the name of fighting terrorism. Covering up for such a man may make Sampson a good soldier, but it most certainly does not make him a man with a lot of integrity.
I hope Fry isn't teaching any ethics classes.
In the article on the resignation of Kyle Sampson (March 18), political science professor Earl Fry is quoted as a sort of character witness. Professor Fry calls the man who apparently managed the politically motivated firing of several U.S. attorneys and spearheaded the preparation for the ensuing cover-up "a good man with a lot of integrity."
Fry's definition of integrity mystifies me. Sampson advocated deceiving members of Congress about Department of Justice actions and motivations. He recommended claiming potential deceptive stalling actions were all done in "good faith."
I don't know Sampson, but the e-mails he has authored make him look to me less like a man of integrity and more like a devious and deceptive political operative with no discernible principles whatsoever.
It is my hope that BYU, which I attended for one year, will take a look at this product of its education and start to emphasize virtues like honesty and guilelessness over ambition and loyalty-at-any-cost.
Menlo Park, Calif.
Here's another old article from the Y about Kyle "loyal Bushie" Sampson, this one from 2002:
Y grad advises President Bush
A BYU graduate has made his way into the White House. Kyle Sampson graduated from BYU in 1993 with a degree in American studies. Now, less than 10 years later, he is advising President George W. Bush as associate counsel to the president. "I've been really lucky. I've just been really blessed to have the jobs I've had," Sampson said. "I was just in the right place at the right time..."
After completing his studies at BYU, Sampson attended the University of Chicago Law School... After clerking for a federal judge, working in the appeals department of a Salt Lake law firm and serving as counsel for Senator Hatch, Sampson was appointed to his current position. "It's pretty lucky to get this kind of job. I love it," he said...
Sampson has learned that the beliefs and intentions of politicians are different than people might think. "I think people are cynical about politicians and they think those office holders are just there to serve their own interests," Sampson said. "I don't think that's true. The two politicians that I've worked for, Senator Hatch and President Bush, are both really committed and focused on doing the right thing for the right reasons," he said.
Sampson said every decision Hatch and Bush make is for the betterment of the lives of the people they represent. "I think both of them are really altruistic public servants. It has really been a big honor for me to work for them," Sampson said. Although being on the White House Council has been rewarding for Sampson, it is not without stress. "It's crazy-stuff flying at you all the time," Sampson said. Sampson works on everything related to the president's constitutional power including appointments, picking federal judges, granting presidential pardons and proposing legislations...
- 9:27 PM
March 23, 2007
Welcome Brand New Orleans PD:
It's one thing to tell yourself that you'll accept a job offer from the New Orleans Public Defender on the spot. It's another to actually do it.
I had turned down all other job offers waiting to hear from three offices - the Philadelphia PD, New York Legal Aid Criminal Defense, and the Orleans Public Defender. My friends were rooting for Philadelphia or New York. But I wanted to be at the front lines of a brand new office at the cutting edge of criminal justice. I wanted to work with lawyers who weren't afraid to get their hands dirty. I wanted to go to New Orleans...
- 8:58 PM
March 21, 2007
As a former resident of Canyon County, I just couldn't be prouder that the State is cracking down on Nampa's real crime problem. Read all about it, from Slate's Bonnie Goldstein:
Dirty Dancing in Idaho
Nampa is the second-largest city in Idaho and "a great place to live, work and play." This last category has attracted the attention of Idaho Attorney General and Eagle Scout Lawrence Wasden, who lives in Nampa. Wasden has filed on behalf of the Idaho Alcohol Beverage Control an impressively smutty summary of the goings-on at two local cocktail lounges, Satin Dolls and Club Z.
In the legal complaint, an Idaho state trooper and a Nampa city cop allege that these establishments permit "any person on the premises… to expose… the female breast below the top of the areola, or of any portion of the pubic hair, anus, or cleft of the buttocks." We learn that one dancer's "G-string did not appear to be the correct size" and that various "prohibited acts" were witnessed by the cops...
Note to Wasden: brassiere should be spelled with an "e" at the end...
Alert readers of A&C will remember the last time that the lead DAG on the case, Stephanie Altig, made the headlines, it was also for snooping: she was caught intercepting and reading legal mail between Idaho prison inmates and their lawyers, behavior which did not sit well with the Ninth Circuit and the Idaho State Bar.
- 10:58 PM
A local lawyer loses his fight with kidney cancer. Jack Boone was a public defender who took on a lot of unpopular cases. The District Attorney says he had a tremendous insight into human nature, which made him an outstanding trial lawyer. He also said Boone was a great mentor to young lawyers and will be missed. Boone leaves behind a wife and two sons. He was 53.
From the Augusta Chronicle(registration required):
Like a real-life Atticus Finch, Augusta attorney Jack E. Boone Jr. fought fearlessly for the least-popular cases and the underprivileged, and finally against kidney cancer until the disease claimed him late Sunday night. He was 53. As with the hero of To Kill A Mockingbird, a favorite book, he was remembered by colleagues and courtroom foes as a principled but zealous defender who never let the fight become personal.
"We tried many cases against each other and many of them were hotly contested and our friendship grew with each trial," said Augusta Judicial Circuit District Attorney Danny Craig, who faced off against Mr. Boone in death penalty trials. None of his clients received the death penalty, which Mr. Boone adamantly opposed. The son of a policeman who died in the line of duty, Mr. Boone was introduced to the courtroom as a boy and later turned from being a minister to pursue law. He worked two jobs to put himself through law school.
That determination showed for his clients, said Atlanta defense attorney Bruce Harvey. "He was a streetfighter, a guy who never gave up. He never gave up his principles and never compromised his principles," Mr. Harvey said. "He will always be someone that we'll remember and remember fondly." He was good-natured and was always the first to make fun of his gray-flecked ponytail, said former Assistant District Attorney Willie Saunders. "'I'm having a midlife crisis,' is what he would tell the jury," Mr. Saunders said. "But a heck of a trial attorney. You better have your ducks in a row and lined up or he was going to run roughshod on you."
Yet it was never out-of-bounds or under-handed, said Augusta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Neal W. Dickert, who tried cases against Mr. Boone as an attorney. Still, "he was never intimidated by anybody or anything in the sense that he was prepared to do what he needed to do to represent his client," Judge Dickert said.
That was because he was guided by his own counsel, said his wife, Julie. "He was his own man," she said. "He didn't play the games. He shot from the hip and told it like it was and expected everyone to do what they were supposed to do." Joining the public defender's office a couple of years ago was a good fit for him. Mrs. Boone said. "As he got older, I told him it was time to pass the fire on to others," she said. That is certainly something he passed on to his children, said son Jack E. Boone III. "If he could be remembered for one thing, I think it would be that he was a servant of the common man," he said...
- 8:23 PM
March 20, 2007
Entering a plea of not guilty in a criminal case is not necessarily a statement by either the lawyer or the client that "defendant didn't do the thing that prosecutor says he did." Defendant doesn't have to say whether or not he did those things, and neither does defender. A plea of not guilty simply means, "I am a free person and I will not give that up without a fight." Nothing more, nothing less...
I'm thinking of forwarding the link to the Pocatello judge who said he'd hand out a harsher sentence to the defendant who'd make the state prove its case in trial.
- 12:14 AM
March 19, 2007
March 18, 2007
Homage to Christian Hatfield, choosing the right and going to jail for his troubles. From the Farmington Daily Times:
Chief public defender put in jail: Judge finds attorney in contempt of court
Chief Public Defender Christian Hatfield spent nearly two hours in jail Friday morning after Aztec Magistrate Judge Wilma Charley found him in contempt of court...
The chief public defender's arrest stemmed from a decision to not back down from an ethical duty, Hatfield said. Stephen Taylor, an attorney with the Public Defender's Office, was representing 23-year-old Ismael Cordova on a misdemeanor charge of battery against a household member, he said. Taylor realized he previously represented a witness scheduled to testify against Cordova during the 23-year-old man's Friday morning trial...
Believing there would be a conflict of interest when the witness arrived in court Friday morning, Taylor called Hatfield to the courtroom. Hatfield said he told Charley the trial should be postponed and another attorney needed to be appointed to the case.
"I said it was an ethical violation, and she basically said, OK, go to jail," he said.
Miss Tyrios admires him. Ruth works with him:
The upshot was that my boss went to jail so that my co-worker wouldn't have to. Now, that's a good boss! He has always backed us up when we needed him to, whether it was in front of judges, DAs, or the state big-wigs. We know that we can stand our ground and do our jobs to the best of our ability, without worrying about being hung out to dry. And I hope he knows that any one of us would do the same for him. It's really great to be part of an office like this.
Ruth and her co-workers are blessed. What a great office!
- 11:03 PM
March 16, 2007
From the Chico Enterprise Record:
Replica of Elvis's house teaches local students construction skills
Ron Reed sees a lot of juveniles in court in his job as a public defender for Butte County, but he prefers to see them swinging hammers, drilling holes and painting — and many afternoons this month he's gotten his wish.
Students in Matt McGuire's construction class at the Academy for Change (AFC) are working on an idea of Reed's, to build a replica of Elvis Presley's birth home...
- 11:44 PM
March 14, 2007
Boise Guardian has faint praise for the latest BPD happy fun time initiative:
Beer and Pizza have always gone together, but under a new Boise Police internal contest, drivers with too many beers under their belt may inadvertently buy pizza for a cop... (E)ndorsed by Chief Mike Masterson, (o)fficers who win a monthly DUI arrest contest are rewarded with certificates for pizza, dinners and movie tickets...
Masterson told the GUARDIAN, "There is no reason you can’t have a little fun in law enforcement. I have no problem with it." The feature is in this week’s Boise Weekly by Shea Anderson. He talked to a public defender who didn’t seem pleased with the plan...
The public defender quoted is my good old Ada County boss, Al Trimming ("T-R-I-M-M-I-N-G, as in trimming your hair"). Here's what the chief p.d. had to say:
"A contest has certain cause for concern. I would hope, that in a desire to win the contest, that there would be no corner-cutting of any kind..." "There's a really strong public sentiment about DUI," Trimming said. "The public are the ones that fill juries. Public sentiment and public perception dictate law enforcement and design, and legislative intent."
But he remains skeptical of a contest among officers to haul in the most drunken perpetrators. He is wary, he says, of a crusader-like mentality among officers that can result in overzealous enforcement. "We rely, as citizens, on the fundamental integrity of our police officers," Trimming said. Therefore, having an officer in the room who is trying to win the city's contest, he said, is worrying...
- 9:41 PM
March 13, 2007
You probably only know D. Kyle Sampson as the ruthless, recently resigned chief of staff to Alberto Gonzales:
By avoiding Senate confirmation, Sampson added, "we can give far less deference to home state senators and thereby get 1.) our preferred person appointed and 2.) do it far faster and more efficiently at less political costs to the White House..." Sampson wrote: "Domenici is going to send over names tomorrow (not even waiting for Iglesias's body to cool)."
But the disgraced consigliere has a kindler, gentler side. Before Sampson and his favorable write-ups disappear down the memory hole, here are some links to happier times:
From LDS.org, July 12, 2002 - Advising the President
Church member Kyle Sampson knows he's landed a dream job. As associate counsel to United States President George W. Bush, he appreciates working for a dedicated Christian. Sampson said President Bush is a committed follower of Christ, which makes him a great boss...
From BYU Magazine Spring 2003 - Presidential Counsel
On his path to the White House, D. Kyle Sampson, ’93 has blazed a trail for BYU graduates to follow. During the past seven years, Sampson has served as a lawyer at the highest levels of all three branches of government: the Congress, the White House, and the Judiciary. As a legal advisor to President George W. Bush, Sampson is playing a key role in the lives of both American citizens and BYU alumni...
"We are blessed with the best system of government in the world," says Sampson. "The founding fathers were truly wise men raised up to establish our Constitution..."
Although he may consider his role to be of small importance, some BYU graduates may not agree. Taylor Oldroyd, a friend of Sampson and member of the Bush Administration, feels he has been instrumental in assisting the Church. "Kyle has played a key role in many of the Administration’s personnel decisions and is the reason so many BYU alumni, including myself, have positions in the Bush Administration."
Working long days for President Bush, he often returns home just in time to read to his children and put them to bed. Sampson appreciates his wife Noelle for supporting him while he serves his country. "There is a small moment in time when I can engage in this sort of public service," says Sampson. "I know it will come to an end, so that makes the long hours worthwhile."
And so it has. Good riddance, button man.
- 7:24 PM
Former Child Counselor in Court
Brian Wilson was scheduled to stand jury trial tomorrow, but a change in defense attorneys has postponed the trial... Then the accused had a question. Wilson asked Judge McDermott if he would receive a stiffer sentence if found guilty by a jury rather than pleading guilty before the court.
Judge Peter McDermott, Sixth District Court: "But if someone has no defense and just wants to cost the taxpayers money and just wants to make the state jump through hoops and are convicted, I look at that differently and say since you did that, maybe the sentencing would be a little different than if you would have come in here and accepted responsibility like a man and plead guilty."
- 12:00 AM
March 11, 2007
Joe and I visited the state historical museum in Tacoma, where the World War I exhibits put me in a reflective mood. What a time that must have been: a self-righteous president taking the country to war, a attorney general bending the law, thousands of Americans' patriotism questioned. Seems strange, doesn't it?
I got to thinking about the IWW, and later I found a Northwest history archive online from the WSU libraries in Pullman. Searching for articles on the IWW, I learned the story of Edward Hofstead, a Spokane lawyer sent to jail in 1918 for the crime of being a Wobbly:
He maintained he was in a lawful occupation. Judge Witt held otherwise.
More history posts later, including maybe something about the Wobbly in my family tree, my dad's Onkel Joe.
(my son Joe and I didn't view the contemporary anarcho- syndicalism going on at the Port of Tacoma, but you can on YouTube)
- 11:00 PM
March 08, 2007
This week I picked up the new Son Volt album, "The Search," the day it came out, something I haven't done much since I was a nerdy college boy. I'm enjoying the expansiveness of it, particularly this song where Jay Farrar lends his high lonesome voice to a character I know from the old caseload:
I took a night shift another nickel on the dime
Tried to play it straight, make it different this time
Still waiting to meet the next ex-wife
It's either watching these gauges for Monsanto
or a barback job with the casino
The Army won't want me after what this body's been through
Would you take me back, North Carolina
Would you take me back, Arkansas
Blissful days still there to remember
Methamphetamine was the final straw
Son Volt's tour opens in Bellingham March 26, reaching the Showbox in Seattle on March 27. I've got my ticket.
- 9:06 PM
March 05, 2007
* It was good to get a deferred disposition for a client who's just turned 18. It's been supremely important to him to keep a felony off his record, as he explained to the court commissioner, so he can travel and do military service. Until today, I always assumed whose military he meant: today he came into court wearing this:My client's a mensch.
* I set a trial for another client accused of being a minor in possession or consumption of "intoxicating liquor." This is what he's said to have possessed:Rakija! Balkan firewater! What on earth is slivovitz doing in a suburban South Sound high school? I've tried the stuff a few times, and when my client tells his principal he had to take the bottle away from a drunken kid to protect the kid, I'm giving my client the benefit of the doubt.
- 10:21 PM
This morning I was summonsed in for jury duty, and it was entertaining to see the process from the other side of the bar. Originally I was the venire person with the yellow number 9 badge; when that panel turned out to be for my own office mate's trial, I was traded to the civil jury pool and given a new blue badge to wear, number 31.
Participating in voir dire, I didn't say anything to taint the panel, but I did notice myself forming an opinion about the case before hearing any evidence, just like I've asked potential jurors not to do a hundred times or more. Luckily, the parties had their jury picked by the time they reached juror number 19. Likeable enough parties for the two hours we spent together, but it gave me a chill to discover a side of me that's ready to side with an insurance company.
Outside the courtroom, a juror badge seems to confer the power of invisibility on its wearer. I was standing at the end of the line outside the civil courtroom, when a police officer and a prosecutor stepped out of a criminal courtroom, close enough for me to hear the DPA tell the cop, "Now, his lawyer's crying about why you made him do the FST's, so what I would say is..."
- 9:55 PM
March 04, 2007
Taking a break from missing the green misty forests of his Northwest home, Strangefutures read some public defender bloggers and thought about his own p.d.:
It's obvious from the blogs that the public defenders see themselves as courageous, hard-working, bastions of freedom. It's also obvious that they generally think their clients are ungrateful and a bit dim.
I am very grateful to my public defender. His name is Kevin... The man was seriously bright.
It's been a long time, but I still remember being in awe of how good he was at being able to switch from case to case during a court session... So yes, the stereotype of public defenders being overworked seemed to be borne out. As far as not getting proper time and attention from him...I can't say that was true. I certainly didn't get the time I would've liked, but the time he did have he gave me his full attention...
- 8:20 PM
March 01, 2007
In court today, a client of a colleague (who's spent hours working with this teenager and his family) was about to plead guilty to residential burglary.
His grandmother stood up to protest, "This is wrong! There's no fingerprints! There's no DNA!"
Several protests later, the plea went through. Eyewitnesses and all, you know.
- 10:51 PM
Around midnight last night, my blue heeler mix Antenna added a new line to her resumé: coonhound.
She and Trevor were doing their late night toilette when T started sniffing, Annie started whimpering, and before long I started shining a flashlight halfway up the backyard tree, spotting a furry little burglar way bigger than a cat.
What have I learned? "Do not leave pet food outdoors as it will attract rodents and raccoons."
- 10:26 PM