March 31, 2008

ID: "second-class justice"

From the Times-News editorial board:

The quality of justice isn't the same across Idaho

If you're charged with a crime and can't afford a lawyer, the county will pay one to defend you. Trouble is, Twin Falls County public defenders handle nine times more cases than their counterparts in Blaine County - who also earn more money. So defendants in Twin Falls County don't get the representation they'd receive 60 miles up the road in Hailey...

We can all use more funding, but I'm not sure that propagating the line that

"every day in Idaho busy public defenders cut corners simply because they don't have time and resources to conduct a robust defense"

is the way to build public support for indigent defense.

March 28, 2008

Sweet Mary

Today the kids from Juvenile Drug Court took a field trip to Adult Drug Court.

To mark the occasion, please enjoy (if that's the right word) this Lawrence Welk Show version of "One Toke Over the Line."

March 27, 2008

Be all that you can be

From the Foreign Policy Association job board:

Defense Advisor - Afghanistan

NCSC International, the International Programs Division of the National Center for State Courts, is seeking a Defense Advisor for an existing justice sector reform activity in Afghanistan...

Qualification:... At least three years experience as a criminal defense attorney, with management or organizational experience in public defender's office preferred... Interested applicants should send their resume/CV and expressions of interest via email to afghanistanjobs"at" no later than April 15th...

Bonus link goes to Where's Travis McGee?

ID: “cells alone are not the answer”

Well, good for the Idaho state senate (something I've never imagined myself saying), from New West:

Idaho Senate Overrides Gov’s Veto of Drug Treatment Funding

An impressive vote of 30- 5... provided the supermajority needed for the Idaho Senate to override a gubernatorial veto of a bill providing funding for drug rehabilitation. Gov. Butch Otter vetoed line-items in two Senate bills last week which provide $16.8 million in funding for substance abuse treatment programs in the state...

March 25, 2008

"A big proponent of the right of self-representation"

On the eve of Supreme Court argument in Indiana v. Edwards, Professor Erica Hashimoto drops by Concurring Opinions to validate public defender client perceptions that - yes, we're abysmal, and - yes, we're in cahoots with the government.

Comments are open. I think it was someone from the defense perspective who once commented, "Frankly, Professor Hashimoto is off her rocker."

See also, Prevention Not Punishment, "Should Inmates with Severe Mental Illness Be Allowed to Represent Themselves?"

March 24, 2008

CA: TO p.d.'s happy retirement

From the Ventura County Star:

Public defender steps down -
"He's one of the most passionate people I know when it comes to indigent defense. It's in his blood. It's who he is."

Public Defender Kenneth Clayman is a towering figure as he walks down the halls of the courthouse in Ventura — shoulders pinned back slightly, a ramrod-straight gait, long arms barely swinging...

Clayman, 66, enjoys poking fun at himself and taking jabs at the world and the courthouse with humor. For nearly a quarter-century, the gentle giant with the toothy grin has been at the helm of the Ventura County Public Defender's Office... The Thousand Oaks resident retires... after 24 years as public defender...

March 23, 2008

ID: human costs of caseload cost-cutting

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

'Lowest rung on the ladder'

Michelle Mellinthin was no angel. Charged with grand theft, meth possession and forging a bank card, her public defender in Canyon County didn't waste time finding out if she was actually guilty of all those charges, the Idaho Supreme Court later determined. So when a county prosecutor offered an early plea bargain, the public defender leaped at it. Her attorney refused to wait for the state lab to finish testing a white crystal substance found in her possession. Had he waited, he would have learned the substance was not meth.

A judge ruled that it was too late and let the guilty plea stand. After that, the same public defender and a second one each failed to help her file a direct appeal. Mellinthin went to prison. "My guess is that Ms. Mellinthin just gave up," said State Deputy Appellate Public Defender Sara Thomas. In 2002, Thomas appealed Mellinthin's case on grounds that her public defenders had provided an ineffective defense. And she won.

Mellinthin's case was far from the first or only time a busy county public defender blew a case, citing too little time and resources. A wide disparity exists between the time and resources some Idaho county public defenders have compared with others. But until recently, the state wasn't paying much attention...

March 21, 2008

ID: Idaho prison dogs

From the Idaho Statesman:

Photo Gallery:
A Look into The Inmate Dog Alliance Project of Idaho

(A)t the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise... the Inmate Dog Alliance Project of Idaho... has been training dogs from the Idaho Humane Society for two years. The dogs and inmates in the program are together 24 hours a day 7 days a week for several weeks...

The Inmate Dog Alliance Project... provides inmates a chance to work with dogs... that need training so that they become more obedient pets and can be adopted more easily.

Photo Credit: Shawn Raecke/ Idaho Statesman

March 19, 2008

Hello, stranger

I'm a PD is back!

"Occupational defiant disorder"

All's well here. If any else, the recent folderol at my courthouse has taught me a new diagnosis to describe those of us who do juvenile criminal defense.

Update: this comment from Elizabeth is so good and so DSM-V worthy, it deserved to be moved up front where everyone could see it!

Occupational Defiance Disorder (ODD) is a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by two different sets of problems. These are aggressiveness and a tendency to purposefully bother and irritate governmental entities (otherwise referred to as "the man"). It is often the reason that people seek employment in indigent defense work. When ODD is present with PDS (public defender syndrome), or other psychiatric disorders, it makes life with that person far more difficult.

The criteria for ODD are:

A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least six months during which four or more of the following are present:
1. often loses temper during preliminary hearings
2. often argues with investigators when they arrest a client because they "just had a feeling" he did something
3. often actively defies or refuses to comply with government attempts to violate our clients’ pesky constitutional rights
4. often deliberately annoys district attorneys for pleasure and sport
5. is often touchy or easily annoyed by 1 sentence police reports
6. is often angry and resentful when faced with incomprehensible bonds and sentencing
7. is often spiteful and vindictive towards misdemeanor probation officers
8. often reduces police officers to begging for forgiveness for failing at life and/or crying on the stand
9. is often un-appreciated by clerks when attempting to do the clerks’ job that the clerk failed to do the first time.
10. often defiant to the point of sheer bull-headedness when faced with pretextual tag light and window tint stops

The disturbance in behavior is evidence of clinically significant involvement in criminal defense work

:-) Maybe not just our juvenile defenders

Thank you, Elizabeth, wherever you are!

March 17, 2008


Let me just say, I'm glad to be home tonight on my laptop in my own comfy chair, wearing my own comfy clothes and not someone else's size 4XL orange coveralls.

There are those who relish walking the edge of contempt of court, but I'm a simpler home-loving sort. Today I just said what it seemed needed to be said, plowed through the rest of the caseload, got out of there for a 30 minute lunch, and came back, on to the next thing. More court tomorrow.

(no details so long as any other shoe might drop - I like the freedom of not having to bill my clients, but tonight I appreciate the other freedoms that my private brothers and sisters have)

March 16, 2008

March 13, 2008

More love for Feige

From Newsday:

Seton Hall law prof teams with 'NYPD Blue' producer on TNT series

After pouring his heart and soul into a 2006 book about his experiences as a public defender in the Bronx, David Feige knew exactly who he wanted to shepherd the project to the small screen... Feige, a professor at Seton Hall University's School of Law, wrote (Steven) Bochco an impassioned letter enumerating the reasons he wanted to work with him. It convinced Bochco, and the result is "Raising The Bar," scheduled for 10 episodes on TNT this fall...


I stumbled on these Resources for New Legal Aid Attorneys. Wish they'd been available back when I was a new legal aid attorney. Of course, I wish they'd had the internet back then, too.

I thought this one was pretty good reading for those of us on the indigent side, civil or criminal: Representing the Whole Client

When we understand the nuances of clients’ experiences and the lenses through which they see the world, we are in a better position to serve them and achieve the best outcomes on their behalf...

March 12, 2008

The Wire has a proud ex - p.d. for a fan

In summing up "The Wire," Postlapsarian recalls a previous line of work:

I mean one of the reasons why I chose to be a public defender was to get immersed in a gritty world that I wouldn’t normally be a part of — and I wanted that to be conveyed realistically.

The Wire is the first and only show to do it... Amazing. If they had The Wire on while I was in law school, I think I would have all five seasons of it and not gone into criminal law at all...

March 11, 2008

WA: maritime law

One way that practicing here is different from the high desert, in court yesterday:

"The respondent will be released to house arrest aboard his grandfather's boat..."

March 10, 2008

CA: grief and shock over San Jose colleague's suicide

From the Orange County Register:

Prominent O.C. lawyer found dead - Gary Proctor, who handled dozens of high-profile cases, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his San Jose home

Defense attorney Gary Proctor..., 63, allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself in the backyard of his San Jose home on Sunday. Proctor, who with his partner Dennis McNerney had a contract to represent juvenile offenders in Orange County, moved to San Jose in recent years to manage a similar contact in Santa Clara County.

His friends said that Proctor had been in chronic pain for years with a bad back, and was depressed over recent criticism he was receiving in the San Jose Mercury News over his management of the juvenile defenders' contract in San Jose...

Proctor was also known as a legal mentor to many young lawyers, and a sharing partner to others. "He was a hero to me," said Santa Ana attorney Ken Reed. "He taught me everything I know. When I was still in law school trying my first case, he was sitting right beside me giving me advice."

Senior Deputy Public Defender Denise Gragg said Proctor was a captivating speaker who had an incredible courtroom presence. She recalled the time when she was about to try her first case, and Proctor brought her into his office -- with her two young children – to teach her how to pick a jury...

I linked to the Mercury-News series only last month. Today's sad news via the ABA Journal. Rest in peace.

(see also the Lawyers with Depression website)

March 09, 2008

ID: a Mazda-load of hot Holsteins

One of the cool things about working at the Twin Falls County Public Defenders Office - it may be 2008, but you still get to represent cattle rustlers:

"The way that it happens is you drive your little Mazda into the dairy, in the back where the cameras don't pick it up... And you take four small calves out of the calf hutches and you put two in the trunk and two in the back seat and you drive off..."

"The Wire": Götterdämmerung

Farewell to "The Wire," this time for real, and welcome to our new criminal defense colleague, Cedric Daniels.

March 07, 2008

WA: Valentine's Night at TESC - what a riot!

You may have seen or heard something about the recent unpleasantness (pictures here) at our local liberal arts college. In-court coverage from the Olympian:

Five accused of destroying sheriff's patrol car plead not guilty

Five people arrested Wednesday morning in connection with the destruction of a sheriff's patrol car during a Feb. 15 riot outside a hip-hop concert at The Evergreen State College pleaded not guilty to their charges in Thurston County Superior Court Thursday...

Photographer Robert Whitlock knit together this nifty panorama of the media scrum in Judge Hirsch's courtroom. (via OlyBlog)

Here is State's Exhibit #1:

March 05, 2008

Honi soit qui mal y pense

This is good - John Scalzi, "Shaming the Poor":

Shaming the children of poor people for daring to receive a free lunch is tantamount to saying to them, well, if you had been smart, you wouldn’t have been born to poor people in the first place. And, you know. That sort of thinking makes you an assh*le...

"Real lawyer," diagrammed

Thank you, Ipse Dixit.

March 03, 2008

VA: "it always struck me how much he cared"

From the Virginian-Pilot:

Man who established Portsmouth's public defender's office dies at 55

John H. "Jay" Underwood III, the city's public defender for 22 years, died Sunday after an 18-month battle with cancer. Underwood, 55, left private practice in 1986 to establish the Portsmouth Public Defender's office, and friends and family say it was a job he never stopped loving.

"The law was his life, " said Underwood's wife, Fran. "He didn't desire to go out and be some big corporate attorney. This is what he chose." He wanted to be in the courtroom, and there was also the teacher in him, she said. Being public defender allowed him to do both...

March 02, 2008

ID: pay prosecutor $, get out of trouble, okay?

It's great to see that Idaho has a contender in the prosecutor pay-to-play scam sweepstakes. From KIFI:

E. Idaho prosecutor faces charges concerning public money

Caribou County Prosecutor Criss James is accused of dismissing citations in exchange for about $3,800 in cash that authorities say he deposited into his personal bank account... James is still serving as Caribou County's prosecutor. James can't be removed unless he's convicted of the charges or is removed through a recall process.

Felony charges against Caribou County prosecutor stand

A judge has refused to dismiss felony charges against Caribou County prosecutor Criss James... Prosecutors allege the money was supposed to go to the county's public funds, including its drug court.

Same day, same docket, from KPVI:

Buttars and James Back in Court

The Caribou County Courthouse was busy today with two high-profile cases taking place. Kevin Buttars and Criss James were both back in court. Kevin Buttars was back in court for his sentencing today; Criss James later sat in the same seat while his defense held a motion hearing.

The day started with Kevin Buttars. On January 25th, a jury found the ex-Montpelier Police Officer guilty of battery after he was accused of excessive force and simulated sodomy while in police questioning with Jared Finley... Buttars will spend 15 days in jail...

As for Criss James... The defense stated the money given to James were donations - relating it to community service. The state strongly disagreed. They said this was public money - not donations - because this money wasn't given from the kindness of someone's heart. It was to get them out of trouble...

March 01, 2008

GA: Gideon survives the Georgia legislature

From Atlanta, Sara reports on the toll that the legislative fight for quality indigent defense in Georgia is taking on her:

Grizzly Bears and Ring Mistresses

This is what the legislative session does to me...

We passed huge legislation to reform the public defender system in 2003, one of if not the most significant victory in my life. However now just five years later, we are faced with an indigent defense crisis complete with forces that want to destroy this good but young and struggling system by bankrupting it and tearing down its structure.

I’m moderately happy to share that they only got half as much of the bad stuff they wanted this week as a result of our efforts. The nature of my work is one that my victories are often defined less by outright wins like that of the new public defender system, but more often by successfully making horrible proposals slightly less horrible...

Sounds like a fair bit of what we do for our clients in court.