An article pretty much siding with one Seattle p.d. office over another, from the Seattle Weekly:
Is This Really the Best Defense? - Nickels' critics wonder if defendants have suffered since the mayor put public-defense contracts out to bid
"I think [the city] took a competent system and trashed it," says Seattle University law professor John Strait. He points, as evidence, to a recent city auditor's report that showed fewer cases going to trial. Traditionally, the overwhelming majority of criminal cases end with a plea. But the "jury trial rate" at muni court has fallen further under the city's new system. For every 100 cases, only 0.98 went to trial in 2006, versus 1.35 in 2004. That's a 27 percent decline.
Janet Ainsworth, also a law professor at Seattle University..., calls the shift "the canary in the coal mine. That's a signal that the system isn't working..."
Remember, though, "trial is not the measure of a public defender, nor is it ever good to push to trial for yourself when it’s not what your client wants..." My style is much more ACA than TDA, but I still go to trial when it's what the client wants. In fact, my client and I just spent the whole day in one.
January 31, 2008
An article pretty much siding with one Seattle p.d. office over another, from the Seattle Weekly:
January 30, 2008
From the Seattle P-I:
Court throws out DUI breath tests - Other judges not bound to ruling condemning lab
Breath tests can't be used against many King County drunken-driving suspects until the State Patrol's toxicology lab can show that it has fixed ethical problems, scientific errors and carelessness that have called its work into question.
On Wednesday, three District Court judges found so many problems at the lab that they threw out the breath-test readings for eight drunken-driving suspects - a decision that could make it easier for drivers to avoid DUI raps around King County...
One hundred or more other DUI cases in King County District Court had been on hold for Wednesday's ruling. Defense attorneys say the decision could ultimately affect thousands of cases...
- 10:13 PM
From a public defender:
Three degrees of YOU’RE A PREDATOR!
If you don’t have a MySpace or Facebook account, you’re nobody. Especially teens. Everyone has them and then some. So when middle school resource officer John Nohejl in Florida decided to set up a MySpace account so he could communicate with students in ways they do (with the blessing of the school), it seemed like a brilliant idea...
From I Speak of Dreams:
Is Officer Nohejl this year's Julie Amaro?
He set up a MySpace account - most of his MS "friends" are students in the Pasco County School District. One of his 170+ friends had a link to a porn site. Now Officer Nohejl is now under investigation by the Florida attorney general’s cyber crimes unit... (this one is rich with links)
Good luck with that, officer. Meanwhile, we have to keeping warning the youths: It's not just the pr0n that'll get you online, it's the cops!
- 12:00 AM
January 29, 2008
From the Idaho Statesman:
N. Idaho jury selected for Lankford trial
Jurors have been selected for the new trial of a man previously convicted and sentenced to death in the slaying of a couple vacationing in northern Idaho in 1983. Second District Judge John Bradbury told the jurors on Monday that Mark H. Lankford was granted a new trial last year because of an error in jury instructions during his 1984 trial...
At least some of the jurors in Shoshone County did not recognize Lankford, who appeared in court in a suit and tie. "I'll be honest, I thought he was a lawyer," one juror told defense attorney Charles Kovis...
- 9:57 PM
One lawyer's take on juvenile arraignments, from court-appointed contractor Penny at Penny Quilts:
The Cowboy Boot Experiment Update and Juvenile Delinquents
Some of the kids at that point inform you that they are NOT going to stay in detention. It is amazing how many children honestly have no idea that what they want and what they get are frequently two different things. "Well, you don't get to decide that, unfortunately, " I tell them...
Then there are the frequent flyers... Their demeanor is level, low key, they know the drill. You can feel their disdain for you as a mere "public defender" if they think you are too glib - their disdain for you as a sucker if they think you are too nice or care too much...
Bonus feature: this blog contains lots of Samoyeds
- 6:26 PM
January 28, 2008
Fine eulogy for Louis O. Frost, one of the old bullfighters of public defense, from the Fernandina Beach News Leader:
Ministering society's castaways
The man we called Lou, or sometimes LOF, died last week at age 76 after a long fight with stomach cancer. When I went to work for him as an investigator - Lou was talking about retiring. It took him almost 20 more years to make up his mind. Lou hung around long enough to see kids he hired right out of law school turn gray-haired. That's how much he loved his vocation of serving the indigent accused...
(I)ndigent defense work isn't a job, it's a ministry. Our former boss ministered to society's castaways for nearly 40 years. The Good Book says, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be filled." That said, I'm sure Lou got head of the line privileges and more barbecue and ice tea than he could hold when he went off to the great Bar reception in the heavens last week...
- 6:36 PM
January 26, 2008
From the North (San Diego) County Times:
Ready to Rumble for justice
Some would-be lawyers aspire to fame or fortune when they leave law school. Wil Rumble says he had something different in mind. The 46-year-old attorney and North County resident has focused his career on representing defendants who cannot afford private attorneys.
Today, he works in San Diego County's Multiple Conflicts Office defending clients in some of the county's most serious cases, including three high-profile North County cases involving defendants charged with murder. "My job is to protect my client from what (U.S. Supreme Court) Justice Thurgood Marshall said was the 'awesome power of the state,' " Rumble said...
- 9:14 PM
January 25, 2008
My son's been learning some good lessons this week. At the moment, he and I are watching a movie that he brought home from school about one of his new heroes, Ruby Bridges.
I was pleased to Google her story and find the connection to one of my old heroes:
On November 14, 1960, a 6-year-old Bridges, escorted by four gun-toting US federal marshals, walked past a screaming mob of angry white people to do the unthinkable in New Orleans at the time: Go to school with white children...
Backed by an order from Federal District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright, she walked quietly up the steps of William Frantz public school, past youths who were chanting, "Two, four, six, eight! We don't want to integrate..."
My third-grader is incensed by the way the people in the movie are treating this first-grader. Thank you, Ruby. G d bless you, Joe.
- 9:50 PM
January 24, 2008
Where's the best place to locate a new "secure psychiatric treatment facility" for civilly committed, mentally ill Idahoans? Behind the concertina wire of the state pen, of course. From the Boise Weekly:
Do Iron Bars a Mental Hospital Make? - Idaho is ready to lock up more mentally unstable people. Are prisons the way to do this?
Idahoans living with mental illness are about to have their possible destinies shaped by the Idaho Legislature. In particular, those with the misfortune of needing to be locked up are about to have a possible new destination: a state prison warehouse that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter wants to turn into a 300-bed facility to house people the state deems too dangerous to themselves or society to be free.
But even as plans for this facility roll along in the Legislature and in Otter's financial planning for the state, numerous experts worry that Idaho is conducting a dangerous experiment with the wrong kind of lab...
Meanwhile, Butch's other big idea - changing Idaho law to let prison companies own and operate for-profit lockups - is getting a skeptical reception, despite thousands spent by national prison profiteers on lobbying and campaign contributions.
Via I Speak of Dreams.
- 10:24 PM
I liked him as opposing counsel out at the Barrister courthouse; I loved him as the gutsiest civil libertarian in town. My colleague Jack Van Valkenburgh is taking a break from his labors after 18 years of nurturing civil liberties in the arid soil of my home state. From Left Side of the Moon:
A Local Champion
This was a bit surprising though not totally unexpected. Eighteen years is a long time especially given the intensity of an organization like the ACLU.
The newspaper photograph bearing his likeness marks the day in 1990 that then-Gov. Cecil Andrus vetoed a bill that would have created the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. It was the same year Van Valkenburgh helped open the American Civil Liberties Union office in Idaho. He had been working as a city prosecutor...
And as a bonus for my South Sound readers, wouldn't you just know that he's a Greener. Be proud and take your rest, old friend.
- 9:50 PM
January 23, 2008
The Department of Public Advocacy, Kentucky's statewide public defender agency, is making imaginative use of the Web.
You can find DPA lawyers discussing their jobs on YouTube.
You can check out DPA podcasts.
You can even find DPA when you do a Facebook search for "Department of Public Advocacy." Pretty slick.
- 6:33 PM
January 21, 2008
January 20, 2008
From the Columbian:
Vancouver lawyer Jeff Barrar says he does criminal defense because he's "an Irish kid from Boston who doesn't trust the cops." His smile suggests he's kidding. It's hard to tell. What's clear is Barrar, the owner of Vancouver Defenders, seems as savvy about free-market capitalism as he is about the rights of the criminally accused...
His firm, an anomaly in a community of solo practitioners, has grown in six years to 17 attorneys, including himself, and he'd like to expand. He has $1.4 million worth of government contracts to represent nearly all of the low-income people charged with misdemeanors in Clark County District Court and 20 percent of the people who are charged with felony crimes in Clark County Superior Court.
In short, Barrar, 52, is building an unofficial public defender's office in a county unwilling to pay for one...
- 1:52 PM
From the Macon Telegraph:
Houston County attorney realizes his passion in public defense
Nick White is passionate about defending people who cannot afford legal representation. But pursuing a career as a public defender isn't what he thought he'd be doing when he first entered law school. Today, the 39-year-old Bleckley County native heads the Houston County Public Defender's Office...
- 1:42 PM
January 19, 2008
I found the online site for Rep. Nicole LeFavour (D-Boise), blogging from the floor of the Idaho legislature. This week she and some colleagues took a tour of the prison - industrial complex south of town and took some cellphone pictures (looks like IMSI - "Max," I think).
I went out there a few times on the job in better weather; the place looks even more miserable with the snow and the inversion. If I were still in that job, LeFavour would be my state representative. She seems like a decent and thoughtful politician, though I imagine her head gets sore from so much banging it against the wall.
- 4:58 PM
January 18, 2008
This post reminded me...
(A) bunch of public defenders in Las Vegas? I'm guessing (a) the parties will be good; and (b) there may be booty to be had.
It's getting to be time to sign up for the 8th Annual Public Defender Retreat:
A yearly gathering of public and private criminal defense attorneys, investigators, staff, law students, spouses, or anyone with a Public Defender Attitude.
"Public Defender Attitude" If you have to ask what that is... you probably don't have one!
And for cheap! One year I sent some lawyers and staff from the Twin Falls office; no arrests were made.
- 10:35 PM
January 17, 2008
Okay, so the badmouthing the p.d.s approach is a popular marketing technique, but at least I liked this line: "Our job is to find a hole in your case, and if we find a hole, we're driving a truck through it!" (Coincidentally, I found a hole just by watching this ad)
- 8:33 PM
Private criminal defense lawyer explains why you want to hire him rather than go with "merely" a public defender. As the comment says, "He only has one example of getting a client off? That's about 100 less than the average PD...I'll go with the public defender."
- 8:23 PM
What's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget, at least until it's splashed across the website of our old home's newspaper. From the Twin Falls Times-News:
Meth lab busted - Equipment to make drug found in downtown trailer
Dale "Red" Patterson... and the camper trailer behind his home have been the focus of a targeted meth buy operation by Twin Falls police for months, court records show. On Tuesday, it paid off... Inside the trailer, officers found equipment commonly used to make methamphetamine, including tubing, heating and cooking equipment, and glass containers containing unknown liquids and substances...
Just like the time TFPD busted the meth cooker next door to my house, 15 feet from my child's bedroom.
- 12:01 AM
January 16, 2008
From A Year in the Life:
Counting Down to Maternity Leave
Disclaimer: I really do love my job (most of the time).
That being said, it has its challenging moments... Now, one of the things about my office (and likely many PD offices) is that once I get assigned to handle a client's case, that person is mine forever -- until I'm burnt out and quit, or I just die. Its good because you really get to know a person and all aspects of that person's life, but there are times when it really makes you want to quit your job, just to escape a certain someone. I've been living a pretty peaceful existence for the past year, every now and again wondering "what ever happened to so-and-so". Well, so-and-so came back last week...
I've noticed this too, to the point where I'm essentially on a retainer as in-house counsel for a number of impulsively - impaired South Sound youth. The difference is, my clients age out when they turn 18.
- 10:19 PM
36 years as a public defender - He held that post in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties
Louis O'Melville Frost, who served as the public defender for Duval, Nassau and Clay counties for 36 years and was considered the dean of Florida public defenders, died in his sleep Tuesday night... He was 76 and had been battling stomach cancer for four years... Mr. Frost was appointed public defender in 1968 and was re-elected nine times without opposition, serving until his retirement in January 2005.
Lawyers he hired, trained or employed rose to the heights of Florida's legal landscape and include a state attorney, more than 20 former or current judges and a retired Florida Supreme Court justice. "He was an institution, dedicated to the concept of defense of the poor," said Public Defender Bill White, his longtime chief assistant who succeeded him in 2005. "There are hundreds of lawyers in this town who owe their careers to Lou Frost, including me..."
- 10:11 PM
January 15, 2008
Barely breathing blog Not a Legal Pun surfaces long enough to launch a salvo:
Dear Difficult Client
I can take being the punching bag for everyone else in the biz. Judges. Bailiffs. Interpreters. Privates. And oh the clerks. But what really sucks, what's just too much to take, is that you sh*tbags in jail can have the nerve to tell me I'm not a real lawyer...
- 9:21 PM
January 14, 2008
The Nevada caucuses are on Saturday. If you're a Nevadan, Vito De La Cruz - Community Leader would like you to vote for Barack Obama.
I noticed that the first version of the endorsement read, "Vito De La Cruz- Public Defender, Community Leader." The current version from the Obama campaign has scrubbed the "Public Defender" part of the caption. You know me, always looking for the slightest slight to the p.d. profession. Oh well, if it helps Barack pick up an extra delegate over Hillary in Elko County, well then, go right and slight us I suppose.
Nonetheless, cool guy, Vito De La Cruz. He's an assistant federal public defender in Reno, instructor at NCDC, and lecturer on the NACDL tape, "Cross-Cultural Communications: I Know You Don't Like Me, Just Give Me What I'm Entitled To." He also has a CD out.
When we lived in Yakima and De La Cruz practiced there, I was impressed when I saw him in action a few times. My wife only saw him once, but once enough to count: it was just before she ran him over at the intersection of N. 3rd St. and Chestnut (in her defense, my wife would like you to know that he may not have been in the crosswalk at the time).
- 10:30 PM
January 13, 2008
I have been sitting on the link to this Utah Bar Journal article by Ted Weckel for weeks now, coming back to it now and then, hoping to draft my response in a coherent way. I think I've failed in the attempt because my response to it changes from week to week, and I find myself of two minds (or more) as to what he's recommending. So here's the link - maybe you'd like to chew on it:
Helping Our Clients Tell the Truth: Rule of Professional Conduct 2.1 in Criminal Cases
(T)he fact remains that, on many occasions, we suspect that our clients are guilty of some crime – either after we have talked with them or after we have conducted a thorough investigation. If our clients tell us that they want to go to trial despite our (emphasis added) conclusion that they are lying to us about their innocence, an interesting question presents itself. That question is whether... American Bar Association Model Rule of Professional Conduct 2.1 allow(s) us to advise our clients of their moral obligations to be honest to the courts, themselves and any victims, and to consider whether they should plead guilty, if they are in fact guilty, and accept responsibility for what they have done. We would provide such advice not only because the evidence may be stacked against our clients and a plea offer would benefit them – but because doing so would develop our clients’ character and weaken their ability to commit fraud upon the courts through their lawyers...
I take it that the author's approach is the same whether or not the client testifies. Perhaps you can see how I might be intrigued but not onboard. In my experience, vigorously confronting one's own clients is likely to make things go BOOM, and seldom in a productive way. Being in juvenile court adds a whole other layer of considerations, too.
Update: Scott Greenfield of Simple Justice chews it, shreds it, and spits it out like an enraged Malinois. As we southern Idahoans say, "Jiminy!"
- 9:36 PM
Robert Underwood Sentenced for Beatings in Bonneville County
Not wanting to make too much light out of the serious news, but this makes it onto the blog primarily because of the last mugshot. Shine on you crazy diamond, Mr. Martinez; hope you'll enjoy the next few decades in Max.
- 8:43 PM
January 12, 2008
Bar mitzvah congratulations today to Nikolai P., son of my cool colleague out at Juvy.
This Temple Beth El goyishe moment courtesy of my 8-year-old: in the buffet line at the reception, Joe points to the Nova lox and says, "I'd like some of that please;" I ask the boy, "are you sure, honey, that's fish" and Joe replies, "Fish? I thought it was ham." Sotto voce, thank G-d.
- 4:47 PM
January 11, 2008
From the Times-News:
Defender challenges McElhiney indictment - Paul: Grand jury procedure didn't protect client
Twin Falls County Public Defender Marilyn Paul wants a judge to toss out a grand jury's indictment of her client in a first-degree murder case, according to court records. Paul leveled a host of challenges in a motion to dismiss John McElhiney's grand jury indictment...
Paul also cites a US Supreme Court case called Crawford vs. Washington, in which the court ruled that certain statements made in a grand jury hearing without facing cross-examination would be considered testimonial hearsay and not admissible in a trial. While Paul has made this argument without success in other cases, Idaho appellate courts have not ruled on how to interpret this opinion.
Yet some Idaho lawyers warn that the motion could win favor in the right case. "It's a very creative argument," said Sara Thomas, the chief of the appellate public defender's office, who has several pending grand jury appeals. Thomas said, "Crawford was a big shift in the law. How it's going to be applied is an open question. If the (Idaho) courts decide that Crawford does apply to grand jury hearings, that would mean there would be a huge change in how they (grand juries) work..."
- 10:33 PM
January 09, 2008
From the Olympian:
Federal Way judge admits relationship with lawyer, resigns
A Federal Way Municipal Court judge has resigned after hosting a holiday party at which she claimed to be having an affair with a public defender who routinely appeared in her court.
Judge Colleen Hartl quit Dec. 19, less than a week after telling her guests - including five court employees - that she had sex with public defender Sean Cecil, and displaying a text message in which he complimented how she looked in "tight jeans," Michael Morgan, the court's presiding judge, said Wednesday. A news release from the city cited "personal and health" reasons for the resignation...
Update: the story made the ABA Journal ("Judge Blabs About Affair With Lawyer, Then Quits") and made Shelley smirk.
- 7:44 PM
January 08, 2008
Latest South Sound pronouncement:
Gregoire announces proposal to take drunk drivers off the road
Gov. Gregoire today announced she will introduce legislation authorizing law enforcement in Washington state to conduct sobriety checkpoints to fight against drunk driving...
A good journalist's take on a (usually) good governor's very bad idea, from Randy Stapilus of Ridenbaugh Press:
Stopping you for no reason
(T)he proposed expansion of governmental stops and checks of citizens who are minding their own business and violating no law is one of the exact reasons we disapprove of them so much. Where will the quest for “safety” and “security” lead us next? How much more thoroughly will the Fourth Amendment be eviscerated in the name of keeping people safe?...
We think this is a lousy idea even if it works as intended, but we doubt that it will. Cops spending their time stopping and checking every driver (or every random fourth, or whatever it is) who are doing nothing wrong, are cops not checking on particularized violations (of DUI or whatever) somewhere else...
- 8:59 PM
January 07, 2008
January 06, 2008
Reasons why I took the John Edwards button off the blog:
- didn't want to split the crucial A & C readers' anti-Hillary voting bloc;
- "Obama Loves the Wire; I Now Love Obama."
Excellent return of "The Wire" tonight, with an extra something for us criminal defense types: they turned Herc, one of the biggest mooks on the force, into an investigator for the Barksdales' old lawyer. Decidedly not family viewing, though: before the show this evening, the son and I took in some live "Neverending Story" together instead.
- 10:16 PM
January 04, 2008
A smart pick from the governor's office:
Otter Names Hansen to 4th District Bench
Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter today appointed Ada County Magistrate Timothy Hansen to fill the 4th District judgeship... Hansen, 56, is a Pocatello native who received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and his law degree from the University of Idaho. The U.S. Navy veteran has been an Ada County magistrate since 1992. He previously was a deputy Ada County public defender...
I remember way back when I was a fledging p. d. out at Traffic Court on Barrister Drive, Tim Hansen and Mark Stewart were my misdemeanor mentors - man, I thought they knew everything! Mark's moved on and Tim's moved up: worthy men both.
(but see Public Defender Dude, "Why are ex-Public Defenders so often bad judges?")
- 6:43 PM
From the Idaho County Free Press:
Publicity prompts Lankford trial move
Concern that press coverage has tainted the limited local jury pool was the motivating factor in last month's decision to hold the Mark Lankford murder trial in northern Idaho... District Judge John Bradbury cited several factors in this case that could affect the ability to seat an impartial jury from Idaho County.
Bradbury noted a particularly inflammatory article by the Lewiston Tribune quoting from an affidavit by Lankford's brother, Robert, stating his belief Mark may have killed six other people in Texas. Another concern lies with letters to the editor. "If they reflect popular opinion" Bradbury noted, "many think it is fair to put more stock in the verdict at the time of the jury trial than in a 'technicality' or 'loophole' found in the jury instructions by a federal appellate court in San Francisco 23 years after the verdict..."
I truly hope that the judge was doing the air quotation marks thing with his fingers when he said 'technicality' and 'loophole':
- 6:12 PM
January 03, 2008
Guest editorial by Bob Boruchowitz, in the P-I:
Lawyers for juveniles not automatic
(C)oncerns apply to juvenile cases in which most people assume that lawyers already are appointed. The reality is that in some counties, many children facing criminal charges or truancy contempt of court proceedings have no lawyers...
It's regrettable that many children who have a recognized right to counsel often lose their rights in the same way. According to a state Office of Public Defense report, more than 2,400 juveniles appeared in court without counsel in 2005...
- 9:13 PM
Now that the counting's beginning, for all their vote - suppressing exclusionary tendencies, caucuses have it all over other more democratic means of choosing a nominee in one crucial area: cookies.At the end of all this, if it's Edwards, I'll very happily vote for Edwards.
If it's Obama, I'll happily vote for Obama.
If it's Kucinich, I'll happily vote for Kucinich, but I'll have to vote absentee, because before that happens, the mothership will have landed and taken Dennis and me away.
If it's Clinton, I'll dutifully vote for the candidate of my party.
- 12:08 AM
January 02, 2008
I know you've all seen this about David Barron, front-runner for 2008 Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year:
Public Defender Builds Injection Case
I just wanted to mention that this mentor of his...
"It's an uphill battle," said Ernie Lewis, head of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. "We can't provide an O.J. defense."
...was one of my NCDC instructors, just like 2007's Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year, David Terrell.
- 8:59 PM
From the AP: Drunken Driver Who Fled US Gets 14 Years
A man who fled to Ireland to avoid prosecution for killing three college students in a 2001 drunken-driving wreck was sentenced Wednesday to the maximum 14 years and three months in prison.
"You were grossly irresponsible," Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier told Frederick Russell. "You are going to get the maximum sentence under the law. You deserve it. It's as simple as that..."
From the Moscow - Pullman Daily News:
Russell gets 14 years in prison
Russell — for the first time — also addressed the families. “I’ll never know the right things to say to you ... I’m so sorry for your loss,” he said.
Killed in the collision were WSU seniors Brandon Clements, 22, of Wapato; Stacy G. Morrow, 21, of Milton; and Ryan Sorensen, 21, of Westport...
- 7:41 PM