December 31, 2007

Lawyers appreciate... procrastination!

Shelley of The Menagerie and Gideon at a public defender tapped me with the “Lawyers Appreciate…” meme stick a week ago. My thoughtful response was due no later than December 31st. In lieu of a thoughtful response, and with 4 hours in my time zone to go, here I go.

Lawyers appreciate words, from the day when we spoke our first word to the in-court argument that just clicked today. From the time we could talk we've been learning them, decoding them, delighting in them. Most of us grew up loving to read them, a love which survived even law school (of course, law school words brought their own pleasure: enfeoffment, seizin, meretrix, "helmeted jack-booted constabulary"). In daily practice, on the phone, in the brief, before the judge or jury, they're our life, and there's nothing like the feeling when the right one leaps to mind and off the tongue.

With just a few hours left in 2007, procrastinator that I am, I tag The Invent Blog ("lawyers appreciate... something new"?), Simba's Mom ("lawyers appreciate... cats"?), and Trial Ad Notes ("lawyers appreciate... a well-stocked library"?). Happy New Year, all.

December 30, 2007

2 things I need 2 watch 4 the rest of my life: my weight and my classism

A reminder (as if anyone needed one) that we in the profession always need to keep on top of our class biases and prejudices: Spungen at bobvis patiently explains to us why American working-class speech, or as Spungen labels it, Prole Twang, is so shameful and grating that even your own indigent clients can't bear to hear it. Spungen also helpfully tells us what our clients want. Hint: it's a mistake to relate to them.

Instead of saying a few foul words here, I will send out a salute to my own public defender and legal services colleagues who grew up prole and proud (Chuck in Ohio, this includes you!), and make some recommendations for further reading: "On Being Poor" by John Scalzi, and Joe Bageant's "Let's Dump Prepackaged Class Identities." Yes, let's.

December 29, 2007

ID & TX: remind me again - why do we send our Idaho inmates to Texas?

From the Houston Chronicle:

55 Idaho inmates sidetracked during move from Texas prison

Fifty-five Idaho inmates who were moved out of a troubled Texas prison on Thursday have been forced by a contract delay to make a temporary stop before going to their final destination... More than 500 Idaho prisoners are in Texas and Oklahoma due to overcrowding at home. The prisoners being moved are bound for the Val Verde Correctional Facility in Del Rio, Texas, after more than a year at the Dickens County Correctional Center in Spur, Texas, where one Idaho inmate killed himself in March.

Because a Texas county official has yet to approve the contract to house Idaho prisoners at Val Verde, they have first been sent 100 miles away... There, they will sleep in groups of up to 10 men on makeshift cots in day rooms until resolution of the contract allows them to complete the final 250-mile leg of their journey to Val Verde...

Department of Correction Director Brent Reinke said he learned only last week that a Texas county judge wanted a lawyer to look at the contract one last time. "It was something we did not anticipate," Reinke said. "GEO is paying the transport costs..."

This is just the latest uprooting of Idaho inmates since they were first shipped out of state in 2005. Since then, they have bounced from prison to prison in Minnesota and Texas amid allegations of abusive treatment...

Despite the stopover, GEO has a hefty incentive to make sure the move to Val Verde goes smoothly, Reinke said. The company hopes to win contracts with Idaho to build a large new prison here to help accommodate the state's 7,400 inmates. "They're really monitoring this closely, and doing a good job at this point," Reinke said. "It's not a lot different than triple bunking..."

Great: when you get to the intersection of prison politics and institutional indifference, the two start hot-bunking.

"Getting a headache"

It felt wrong somehow to let the old year pass without linking to one more public defender client rant. From Technomadic Packratt:

I've decided it might be a good idea to step back and look at what the cases I intend to file will be based on. So far, here's what I have: (any legal experts or hobbyists are more than welcomed to comment and/or give me some constructive criticism!)...

Case 5: Action Against Northwest Defenders (Public Defenders Group)

Part 1: Willful negligence on the part of the public defender for divulging information about my case to other individuals without my consent...

Part 2: Willful negligence on the part of the public defender when she continued to insist that I plead guilty...

I'm in Packratt's debt for suggesting a proper name for the sort of self-educated tormentor we encounter on the job: Legal Hobbyist. Perfect.

December 27, 2007

WA: first re-entry, then PhD

From the Olympian:

Cedar Creek inmate ready for release

Of 400 inmates at Cedar Creek Corrections Center, Craig Ulrich is the only one applying to be part of a doctorate program in biochemistry when he gets out in May. "We probably don't have a lot of people leaving here to get a PhD," said Tom Matthews, retired Cedar Creek business manager...

"I have great expectations for him," Matthews said of Ulrich. "He has great potential: something bad happened, and he felt the responsibility to step up and make amends for it." Ulrich, 25, was in his last year of pre-med at the University of Washington when a conviction on a manslaughter charge sent him to prison for four years...

ID: "cooperative individual" turned murder suspect

Scott at Grits for Breakfast recently wrote about Texas's corrosive reliance on snitching. He also noted this recent news about a snitch gone wrong, closer to my old home.

From the Idaho Mountain Express:

Twin Falls murder suspect was a Blaine County ‘narc’ - McElhiney cooperated with police in drug investigations

A Hailey man charged with murder in Twin Falls was an informant for the Blaine County Narcotics Enforcement Team. John Henry McElhiney, accused of killing an 18-year-old Twin Falls man and hiding the body in a barrel, assisted police with drug investigations in Blaine County, the director of the Narcotics Enforcement Team confirmed... Twin Falls County Prosecuting Attorney Grant Loebs is not seeking the death penalty...

... which is the only saving grace in this sordid story.

ID: the sting of jail at Christmas

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

Christmas in custody - Inmates find peace, sobriety behind bars

Lights on a small Christmas tree twinkled Tuesday behind two officers booking inmates into the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center. A female guard wearing a red Santa hat assessed a new prisoner for any medical conditions. Beside her, another officer booked-in an elderly man wrapped in blankets - until the inmate apparently spit on the counter.

Christmas is just another day in jail. But there's an upside to the holiday for two state inmates doing hard time for meth crimes. "I'm grateful to be here. It's a sober Christmas this year," said inmate Penni Andoe...

December 25, 2007

A Happy Christmas to all

Let the just rejoice,
for their Justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
For their Savior is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
For their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice,
for their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice,
For their Liberator is born.
Let all Christians rejoice,
For Jesus Christ is born.

- St. Augustine (AD 354-440)

December 24, 2007

What time is Midnight Mass?

We caught the early show at St. Michael's in hopes that visions of sugarplums would be dancing in the boy's head at a reasonable hour tonight. No such luck - he's still awake. Just as well that we didn't stay up late to go to Midnight Mass, though. I've drawn on-call cellphone duty again (second Christmas in less than three years, not that I'm getting a complex or anything), and it'd be a pain to duck out of church to answer the drunk driver Batphone.

For your Christmas Eve viewing, here is our Sugarplum:

Correction: drinking driver - sorry, DUI colleagues.

December 23, 2007

"Treat everyone with dignity and respect, and progress on justice will naturally flow"

From the University of Washington School of Law's Public Service Voices:

Conceptions of Justice: An Interview with Jay Stansell, a Seattle Federal Public Defender

I wasn’t aiming to become a public defender, I just fell into it. My original goal was to do political work on human rights violations in Central America. But it’s an illusion to think there’s one right spot to go to work for social justice – it’s where your heart is. I started doing misdemeanor criminal defense and I realized that there was a lot of human rights work that needed to be done here too..

December 21, 2007

ID and WA: weird frontpage coincidence busts a suspect

From the Spokesman-Review:

Front-page photos help capture thief

The blue and black checkered jacket and dark-colored hooded sweatshirt were dead giveaways to Tribune readers and police. Michael Millhouse... said he liked the photograph of himself on the front page of Thursday’s Tribune, painting some Christmas greetings...

It was the second image on the page, about an inch below, the 43-year-old Millhouse, of Clarkston, didn’t find so flattering. That one, taken from a video surveillance camera at the Clarkston Zip Trip... ran alongside a story about the apparent theft of a woman’s wallet at the store by a man whom police hadn’t identified... Video screens from multiple angles showed Millhouse snatch the wallet and leave the store with it.

The two pictures, running one on top of the other, led to Millhouse’s arrest Thursday and the recovery of (the) wallet...

Click on the image for a nice big PDF view of the front page from the Lewiston Morning Tribune. It's always a proud moment when the home state makes Boing Boing.

Time I had some time alone

GWB does REM: It's the End of the World as We Know It

December 20, 2007

More cross-examination pointers from juvy

Today I discovered one of the things that happens during cross when you contradict one of the state's teen-age witnesses' testimony using information that the same witness posted on MySpace.

It makes the teen-age witness very, very angry.

AZ: Mohave County's cure for caseload crunch - work more hours!

From Caminiqua and Davious:

A strong stand for public defenders!

Dana Hlavac, my boss, here at the Mohave County Public Defender's Office... recently took a stand against unreasonable caseloads for Public Defenders...

"Why are we so concerned about giving quality representation to criminals?" - a paraphrased quote from a public official...

See also from the Mohave Daily News:

Judge allows public defender to withdraw from 39 felony cases

WA: "like a bad Thanksgiving dinner with a drunk relative"

More about a black-robed bully's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weekend, from the Oregonian:

Colleagues detail 'bad weekend' with judge - conduct, offensive remarks at a conference are among the reasons the state censured Clark County's John P. Wulle

Clark County Judge John P. Wulle was frustrated with the discussion. It's time for the group to move to the next topic, he announced... "No, Judge," Keith Pereira told Wulle. The group needed to work through this topic... That was it. The judge erupted with an expletive directed at Pereira, threw down his pen and walked out the door - leaving behind his stunned, embarrassed and frightened colleagues.

The incident was one in a series of questionable behaviors involving the judge during the five-day conference, including remarks about African Americans, gays and Jews that witnesses reported as demeaning or, at least, inappropriate... But his outburst at Pereira especially shook participants. It frightened at least one member - Cookie Quirk... "I've never seen a man throw stuff, use the F-word, and just act like a kid," Quirk said. "I didn't know what he was going to do next..."

Aid China's public defenders

The International Senior Lawyers Project, together with International Bridges to Justice, non-governmental organizations that support criminal defender and legal aid efforts in Asia and elsewhere, are recruiting on-site volunteer attorneys for placement in China:

This assignment is ideal for a retired (or on sabbatical) public defender or criminal defense lawyer and would require a commitment of at least 3 months on-site in China, starting in either Spring or Summer 2008. The project involves mentoring Chinese lawyers; however, Chinese language skills are not needed.

If you are interested in this opportunity, or know of someone who just might be, please contact Andra Moss, Volunteer Coordinator, International Senior Lawyers Project, 31 W. 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019, (212) 895-1038, or amoss "at" islp "d0t" org.

If I ever get to go to China, I'd like to visit a rural police station and bring back one of these signs:

“Confess - better treatment; Resist - harsher treatment”

Actually, I think they used to have these in police stations in rural Idaho, too.

December 17, 2007

ID: post-conviction greetings from Idaho!

Greetings from the Federal courthouse in Boise, Idaho.I'm the one in the fifth floor window, pacing back and forth, waiting to testify in my old client's habeas hearing.

December 14, 2007

Blissed-out bad guy

From the Twin Falls Times-News, my nominee for happiest inmate of 2007 (and my wife's for best mugshot ever):
Dude sort of looks like Charlie Brown once he finally snapped and stuck a shiv in Lucy.

December 13, 2007

ID: let them eat tofurkey!

Environmental Graffitti serves up what's on the menu chez Idaho Department of Correction:

PETA Takes on Prison Menus

PETA recently took a good hard look at the US prison system. Were they making sure that we human animals were treated fairly, given access to decent medical care, and protected from harm? Nope. Just needed to make sure vegetarian criminals had tasty veggie burgers available. Idaho was rated the top prison system in the US for vegetarians...

See also Corrections Sentencing.

(thanks for the link, enviros!)

December 12, 2007

Season's Greetings from Idaho

Via Daily Kos and IdaBlue.

OR: badmouth your lawyer, get a new trial

Can't imagine how playing the tape of this defendant disparaging his court-appointed lawyer might affect the jury in a, you know, right to a fair trial kind of way:

"Defendant: If you and Jodie cannot get me a good lawyer, I'm going to go do my f*cking time, I'm going to sign my kids over to the State of Oregon, and you guys will never f*cking see me again...

-- I'm telling you what I'm going to do, and you can count on it. If I go to court with this f*cking attorney, I'm f*cked...

-- No. All I'm looking for is go find a lawyer. I don't give a f*ck if it's goddamn Mr. Magoo and on his first case. I'll pay for whatever it takes when I get out of here..."

Or at least the trial judge couldn't. The Oregon Supreme Court could, though:

"(I)t would be extremely difficult for him to advocate for the defendant in front of jurors who knew that defendant had 'called (him) every name in the book' and did not believe that he was competent..."

Trials go forward all the time when the public defenders know this - we just try not to share that knowledge with the jury.

Via Evidenceprof Blog and the ABA Journal.

(Good old Malheur County! You know, the DA there was #1 in my class. This issue must not have been on the final.)

December 11, 2007

Lord, the sea is so big and my boat is so small

I got a bit of a frisson from this ABA Journal article about a former public defender striking out on his own:

A Conspiracy of One - After months of planning, hoping and hand-wringing, Michael Grossman is ready to start his new life as a solo practitioner

(T)oday... is Grossman’s first day at a new firm. His firm.

(H)e’s ready to tackle the day. Which for now means stuffing hundreds of envelopes with announcements that he’s opened a solo practice. Grossman is sending the cards to pretty much everyone he knows: friends, associates and lawyers he’s crossed paths with during his nine years in the Cook County Public Defender’s Office...

I completely understand this reason for the move:

He began to notice the violence was getting under his skin in ways it never had before. Before he became a parent, that is...

One murder case proved particularly troubling. “There were four dead bodies, and one was a 2-year-old,” he recalls. “I had medical examiner photos in my file that I didn’t want to look at. I didn’t want to take that home with me at the end of the day.” While the case alone wasn’t enough to make him quit, it contrib­uted to his growing malaise. “I believed in what I was doing,” he says. “I just wanted to do something different...”

But I suspect that this only leads to trouble:

Meanwhile, Grossman had become an avid blog reader...

December 10, 2007

WA: whiskey don't make liars, it just makes fools

From the Columbian:

Judge Wulle censured by commission

Clark County Superior Court Judge John Wulle was censured Friday for "demeaning, offensive and shocking" behavior at a training conference last year. Wulle, 57, appeared before the state Commission on Judicial Conduct in SeaTac. The judge and seven other people from Clark County, including a deputy prosecuting attorney, a juvenile probation officer and a defense attorney, attended "Planning your Juvenile Drug Court," July 24 to 28, 2006, in Los Angeles.

According to a nine-page document posted on the commission's Web site, Wulle used profanity, made an obscene gesture in response to a request to lower his voice and referred to Clark County's group facilitator as "the black gay guy" while at the Los Angeles event. Also, after the facilitator said, "Clark County gets a star" for finishing an assignment, Wulle said, "I don't need a star. I'm not a Jew." Several witnesses said Wulle smelled of alcohol, according to the censure order...

See also "Judge Talks Himself into Trouble" from the ABA Journal.

Fall on my sword time

This is one of the scariest things I've ever received:It's an invitation to an evidentiary hearing in the U.S. District Court for Idaho. A week from now, I'll be on the witness stand answering questions about what I recall discussing or not discussing with a client of mine 5 1/2 years ago, prior to his entry of a guilty plea, and prior to his being maxed out by a judge known as Hang 'Em Higher.

After twenty years it's a first for me: first federal habeas, first testimony in federal court. I've reviewed my own advice to myself; if any of you have any good words, please e-mail me at senor_bosnia at hotmail d0t com .

December 09, 2007

Holiday offering

From Kenshusei:

Gifts as They Are

My clients are indigent... Occasionally (though a better word might be "rarely"), we really get to help people out of tight spots and our clients want to thank us. Now, as we've already established my clients are... poor, it becomes clear that they can't really afford to give us lavish gifts to show their thanks. But the gifts they do give have taught me a valuable lesson...

WA: season's greetings from the Port of Olympia

Last night at the lighted ships parade.

December 08, 2007

WA: why Grant County public defenders treat youthful offenders as clients

Michael E. Haas, a Grant County public defense attorney, writes in response to this bit of nonsense from the Columbia Basin Herald:

Guest Editorial: Defender responds to comments on juvenile crime

"The best thing we can do is put the fear of God (in kids)," said Grant County Prosecutor John Knodell. I disagree John. The best thing we can do is love our children, nurture them, teach them right from wrong, teach them to be kind, teach them boundaries, teach them to be respectful of others and themselves. That's what I want for my children and it's what I want for my neighbors' children. Should I want anything less for a child that commits a crime?

Big A & C respect goes out to Ephrata / Soap Lake / Moses Lake juvenile public defenders Sean Devlin and Brandon Redal.

TX: the idiot's guide to creating a public defenders office

From the Terrell Tribune:

Just a year old, Kaufman County PD's office serves as a model for others around state

A year ago when Andrew Jordan was appointed as Kaufman County's first public defender, he had no staff, no desk and a daunting charge from commissioners... “I really thought when I agreed to accept the position that somewhere there was ‘The Idiot's Guide to Creating a Public Defender's Office,' ” Jordan said. “That book doesn't exist so, to that extent, it was overwhelming trying to start from scratch...”

Via I Was The State.

December 07, 2007

ID: a bit of infamy in our history

When I lived in the Magic Valley, I got to go out to the site of the Minidoka internment camp. Unlike its residents back in World War II, I got to leave when I chose. The artist Roger Shimomura was held there. His exhibition, "Minidoka on My Mind," is at the Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle until December 22:

In a group of 30 paintings, Roger Shimomura's exhibition, "Minidoka on My Mind," will explore the artist's family's internment during World War II... The show's title refers to Camp Minidoka in Hunt, Idaho where he and his family were detained from the spring of 1942 until the summer of 1944... He says that these "images are scraped from the linings of my mind — not necessarily what I remembered specifically, but what I respond with when I think of Camp Minidoka..."

Via the Is That Legal? post, "Keep on Talkin', Michelle Malkin":

Artist Roger Shimomura takes on Michelle Malkin.
Advantage: Shimomura.

December 06, 2007

WA: sorry, we've made our yearly quota

From the Port Townsend Leader:

Defenders say 'no' to more District Court cases

Jefferson Associated Counsel is declining to represent any more poor people in Jefferson County District Court until a new contract can be negotiated... Jefferson Associated Counsel Director Ben Critchlow advised the county Nov. 8 that District Court had assigned the three-attorney firm 822 cases, which is 312 more than a county contract limit of 510 cases.

Attorney Richard Davies... said Tuesday that through Nov. 28, the three attorneys had been assigned 983 District Court cases, 473 more than the caseload limit spelled out in the contract. "There's way too many cases, and we're getting to a point where our clients aren't getting the service they deserve," said Davies. Davies said the Washington State Bar Association recommends that attorneys be assigned roughly 300 District Court cases a year...

I can imagine more than a few misdemeanor public defenders out there saying, "as if."

December 05, 2007

CNMI: homecoming queen

Janet King then - Miss Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Universe

Janet King now - brand new public defender

(From the Saipan Tribune, via Commonwealth Sound Off)

December 04, 2007

WA: juvenile justice, Grant County style - treating clients like clients

Long after settling the ACLU lawsuit, Grant County, Washington continues to struggle under the yoke of the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. The elected prosecutor's latest objections, from the Columbia Basin Herald:

Grant County cities ask for more prosecutors

Grant County Prosecutor John Knodell said the juvenile system in Grant County is flawed. Juveniles go to court and are viewed as clients by public defenders...

More public defenders results in less prosecution due to the amount of time they can demand on the prosecutors, he added. Public defenders are drowning them in motions and extensions for the misdemeanor crimes, Knodell added...

He said public defenders play a role in overcrowding because their client sometimes stays in jail while waiting for trial. If the process were expedited, they wouldn't be in the jail because they would be transported to another juvenile facility to serve their time...

The first time a juvenile is prosecuted, they should be doing jail time, he said. The court system is teaching young criminals what they did is not their fault and they need counseling to cure their ailment...

Knodell vowed a promise to prosecute juveniles to the full extent the law allows for all misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes to get maximum jail sentences. "The best thing we can do for kids in put the fear of God in them...", he said.

Really, that's the way he talks. No, seriously. Apparently no Grant County public defenders could be found to be interviewed for the story, probably because they were all off doing dilatory and frivolous things like filing motions and talking to their clients.

Update 12/11/07: Grant County prosecutor's staffing request declined

UT: DP defense counsel, better watch your back

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Utah Supreme Court: Did prosecutors harass defense in death penalty case?

Defense attorneys told the Utah Supreme Court on Monday that prosecutors are "waging a war" of harassment and intimidation against lawyers representing capital murder defendants.

Death penalty cases bring out the worst in prosecutors, said federal defender Kent Hart, speaking on behalf of the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. There is "a willingness to engage in conduct they otherwise would not," he said...

December 03, 2007

Arrogant and inyaface, yer honor

What I learned in court today:

When you go to court for your assault charge, the judge might notice that you're wearing your best t-shirt from "the signature mixed martial arts apparel and lifestyle brand."
Just not in a good way.

No justice, no cats

Blogger Adam has a place for us in his coming regime:

In every municipality dealing with a feral cat problem, we set up special tribunals to try accused cats. Each cat will be assigned a public defender...

My unbiased experts are skeptical.

December 02, 2007

Next study: "the sun is too hot to walk on"

From the AP:

Study: Immaturity May Spark Teen Crime

The teenage brain, Laurence Steinberg says, is like a car with a good accelerator but a weak brake. With powerful impulses under poor control, the likely result is a crash. And, perhaps, a crime. Steinberg, a Temple University psychology professor, helped draft an American Psychological Association brief for a 2005 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for crimes committed before age 18.

That ruling relies on the most recent research on the adolescent brain, which indicates the juvenile brain is still maturing in the teen years and reasoning and judgment are developing well into the early to mid 20s. It is often cited as state lawmakers consider scaling back punitive juvenile justice laws passed during the 1990s...

Because sometimes judges and lawmakers have to have things spelled out for them.

The Idaho Statesman article adds a little local content:

Prosecuting kids as adults gets another look - Drop in juvenile crime, brain research and studies of ill effects of prison on teens spark reforms in many states

In the Treasure Valley this week, the case against a 13-year-old Nampa boy was transferred to adult court, where he will face charges in an alleged sexual assault on a 5-year-old girl earlier this year. The boy's lawyer is now fighting to get the case moved back to juvenile court. Under Idaho law, any juvenile 14 or older who is charged with a violent felony such as murder, attempted murder, rape or robbery is charged as an adult. If a suspect is younger than 14, a juvenile court judge must decide whether the suspect should be charged as an adult...

Fourteen. Meanwhile in the Cowboy State:

Minor offenses routinely land Wyoming youths in adult jail

Wyoming is big on tough love. Hundreds of Wyoming juveniles each year are locked up for minor crimes like shoplifting, drinking and even running away. The main reason is that many of these youngsters are tried in adult rather than in juvenile courts...

The Campaign for Youth Justice has something to say about locking up youth in adult jails.

(homage to Bliss for the headline)