June 30, 2008


A client of mine killed himself this past Thursday night. I found out today.

For anyone else out there, here is a link to Hopeline.

June 29, 2008

WA & ID: murderer Braae says he's "just not the type that gives up easily"

From the Olympian:

Questions linger over fate of missing women

When "Cowboy" Mike Braae was arrested after jumping off a 40-foot bridge into an Idaho river during a police chase..., it marked the end of what investigators say was a trail of rapes, slayings and domestic violence... Braae faces a possible 56-year prison sentence in a Thurston County courtroom July 24 for raping and murdering Lori Jones in Lacey in 2001, but investigators think he eluded justice for years...

In a letter to the editor (pdf file), Braae indicates that rather than the label "Cowboy Mike," he would prefer, "El Esclavo de Dios y El Defensor de la Fe." "Chupacabra" and "pendejo" could work too.

June 27, 2008

ID: little miss can be wrong

From the Idaho Mountain Express:

Supreme Court upholds Johnson convictions

The Idaho Supreme Court has upheld Sarah Johnson's convictions of killing her parents in 2003... Now 21, Johnson was 16 at the time...

From the Times-News:

Justices reject Sarah Johnson appeals - Court says 2005 murder conviction was legal

The Idaho Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously upheld the conviction of Sarah Johnson for murdering her parents five years ago in their Bellevue home... Johnson was given two life sentences after a jury handed down a guilty verdict on two counts of first-degree murder for shooting her parents, Alan and Diane Johnson...

Update: I take that back, I hope she's doing fine - she does have a colorable ineffective assistance claim. See the Idaho Supreme Court opinion here (pdf file).

June 25, 2008

(What passes for) a compliment

Today from a client's parent:

"You're good for court-appointed."

June 24, 2008

Must-see P.D. TV

A preview of Feige's big TV series, Raising the Bar:

I say: All about public defenders fighting the good fight against the system while everyone else gets annoyed by their whiny do-gooder attitudes and cheap haircuts. Embarrassingly enjoyable...

June 23, 2008

CO: heartbreaking loss

From the Daily Camera:

Public defender Cary Lacklen remembered as 'ferocious advocate' - Lawyer spent more than 30 years in public defender's office

Defense attorneys and prosecutors in Boulder and across the state have been left reeling by the death last weekend of Cary Lacklen... “He was the epitome of a public defender,” said Karen Pereira, the office manager for state Public Defender’s Office in Boulder. “He was the person who championed the poor. I don’t think there will ever be another like him...”

Joe is 9 today

Happy Birthday, my great kid.

June 19, 2008

UT: old but good

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Legal Defenders chief Hill to retire

The longtime leader of the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association, John Hill, announced his retirement Tuesday after more than three decades of criminal defense. "Well... I'm old," he explained with a chuckle, noting that he likely will split his retirement between homes in St. George and Island Park, Idaho...

(In the apparent absence of a proper Legal Defenders website, please enjoy these bonus links to Joe Hill (no relation) and The Pie pizzeria)

Deer hunting with Beezus

In a persnickety post a while back, I linked to an article on class by Joe Bageant, a wise man from Winchester, Virginia, who lived for a time in North Idaho (Plummer and Moscow). Today Statcounter told me that I may have had a distinguished visitor:

I hope that it was him. Some of the coolest moments blogging are the chance encounters with admirable people, even in a virtual way.

June 18, 2008

Bluejacket-style defense lawyering vs. Gitmo

Profile in courage from the New York Times:

An Unlikely Antagonist in the Detainees’ Corner

When he speaks publicly, Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler, a military lawyer for a Guantánamo detainee, is careful to say his remarks do not reflect the views of the Pentagon. As if anybody would make that mistake.

In his Navy blues, the youthful commander could pass for an eager cadet. But give him a minute on the subject of his client, a terrorism suspect named Omar Khadr, and he sounds like some 1960s radical lawyer, an apple-cheeked William Kunstler in uniform...

The omen

Spent the morning learning new case management software instead of where I should have been, representing my clients in court. This new system should be helpful, but more helpful for whom I'm not sure.

Compare the way the vendor speaks to public defenders:

(T)o most people, the public defender is better known as the defender of the underprivileged. As such, it is your duty to ensure that proper justice is served and that your clients receive the best defence possible...

with their pitch to prosecutors:

You have the opportunity to clean the streets of criminals that are preventing your citizens from enjoying a life of freedom and security. Your responsibility to complete the job of law enforcement is honorable, but it comes with lots of hurdles...

Then there's the name of the new system - Damion - which fills me with a vague foreboding...

June 17, 2008

Kid wisdom: "I know what lawyers do now"

At Nachiket's Corner, Nachiket Deshpande's daughter Tanu has great insight for one so young:

There is a very big tall tree, on top of that there is a jail. There is a police monkey who takes lawyers up the tree and puts them in the jail. The lawyers can't climb down the tree so they can never get out!

MI: "Michigan is muting Gideon's trumpet"

From the State Bar of Michigan:

Evaluation of Trial-Level Indigent Defense Systems in Michigan - A Race to the Bottom - Speed & Savings Over Due Process - A Constitutional Crisis

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NLADA) finds that the state of Michigan fails to provide competent representation to those who cannot afford counsel in its criminal courts... Though the level of services varies from county to county – giving credence to the proposition that the level of justice a poor person receives is dependent entirely on which side of a county line one’s crime is alleged to have been committed instead of the factual merits of the case – NLADA finds that none of the public defender services in the sample counties are constitutionally adequate...

The NLADA news release caption has a sting to it: Michigan Ranks 44th in the Nation for Public Defense Spending; So-called "McJustice" System Puts Communities at Risk

(Via The Grand Rapids Press: Public defender system denies justice to poor, report says)

Update: via Disgusted Beyond Belief, here's a link to the Michigan Campaign for Justice, "fighting for a fair and effective public defense system."

June 15, 2008

I can has fair trial?

From two photo sites: one I hadn't heard of - Pundit Kitchen
...and one that everyone's heard of.

June 14, 2008

The air up there - turbulence ahead

"(A)fter a week of working at the federal public defender's office," Duoly Noted reports on

The Emotional Toll of Being a Public Defender

Here with a reply is Jeremy Irons:

"You have no idea..."

June 12, 2008

Back to school days

In juvy court today, the court commissioner (a one-time school teacher) quizzed my detention-bound client:

Q: "What's your plan for academic success?"

A: "Stop dicking around?"

UT: caseload outpaces pop. growth in Provo

From the Daily Herald:

Workload increasing at public defender's office

As Utah County has grown, so has the number of people who rely on its public defenders. But despite recent staff increases, the public defender's office says it may need more attorneys soon...

(T)he number of felony cases filed by the county attorney's office, and hence the number of cases assigned to public defenders, saw an annual increase of 9.7 percent over the past eight years. The county's population has grown by an average of 4.3 percent per year during the same period...

Fun fact I didn't know:

Utah and Salt Lake counties are the only counties in the state that fund a full-time public defender's office...

June 10, 2008

OR: white-out

On the way back from Twin, and stuck for the night in Oregon. On account of snow. In June.

I wish I was on the highway back to Olympia.

But I was nowhere near Cleveland!

Now and then, P.D. sightings turn up in unexpected blog places. From the Cleveland Sandwich Board:

...a man in a short-sleeve shirt and tie who looked haggard. I imagined his life as a tired, spent public defender who made his living defending petty criminals and getting beaten up by the prosecutors. He still found the heart to joke with our host, and I liked him for it...

June 09, 2008

And may perpetual light shine upon her

In Twin Falls for the funeral of my mother-in-law, Mary Walker. Posts resume in a few days.

June 08, 2008

"P.D. intern, there's an attorney who'd like to speak to you"

Petition for Review ended up having a good day at work:

Public Defender Intern - 1, Private Counsel with a coke problem - 0

Today was insane. I had to push people out of the way to get in and out of the courtroom. While I'm talking with other clients License Boy and his parents somehow start talking to a private attorney. Private attorney (we'll call him Moron) is apparently hungry for clients...

Read on for the surprise ending. The old dog in me says, don't get cocky, kid, but the p.d. in me says, congratulations, new colleague, go get 'em.

June 07, 2008

ID: Boisean off the Guantánamo express

There's a special place in heaven reserved for David Nevin. From the Idaho Statesman:

Boise lawyer critical of 'show trial' at Gitmo - David Nevin says Bush officials are rushing the proceedings for the 9/11 suspects and want a conviction at any cost

Boise lawyer David Nevin said Friday that a military court's decision to let the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks represent himself threatens a fundamental constitutional principle, the right to competent counsel.

"This is not a fair proceeding," said Nevin, a volunteer lawyer for the defense. "This is a show trial, and it's a secret trial. The United States of America is not going to look good at the end of this."

June 06, 2008

MN: chopping block

So it begins. From Minnesota Lawyer Blog:

Public defenders cut 53 more jobs

The State Board of Public Defense voted on June 5 to cut the public defender work force by 15 percent across the state to meet its $3.8 million budget deficit... The board’s action means the loss of 69 full time equivalent public defenders at the District Court level, out of a total of 441 positions, and three appellate lawyers. The board also decided to cut public defender services by no longer representing parents in abuse and termination of parental rights cases...

See also the Red Star Tribune: State to pare the ranks of public defenders by 23 - A combination of a deficit and a cut in aid prompted the state to slash the 2009 public defender budget

June 05, 2008

FL: pinchy in P'cola

The Florida p.d. crisis has spread to Lower Alabama, from the Pensacola News-Journal:

Public defenders feeling the pinch

The Public Defender’s Office in Pensacola may begin turning away hundreds of poor clients who qualify for its services saying the office is understaffed, underfunded and overwhelmed with cases.

“We were already under-funded and under-budgeted before,” Public Defender Jack Behr said... In the past two years, Behr said his office lost $895,000 from its budget and was forced to leave six positions unfilled...

June 04, 2008

ID: IF seeks new p.d.

In Idaho Falls, Neal Randall's out; we'll know on Friday who's in, from KPVI:

Bonneville County Searching for New Chief Public Defender

What might you look for in a new chief p.d.?

"Somebody with good administrative qualities, somebody with the right temperament, you know, because you are dealing with public; you have to have somebody that can deal with people in a crisis situation, be sensitive to that and somebody that can provide adequate attorney services, you know, a good attorney."

I like to think that in my six years on the job in TF, I was admirably adequate, although just after I was hired, when one Boise friend of mine told another friend that the county commissioners liked my good administrative qualities, the other friend said, "our John?"

: it's Jimmy Barrett.

June 03, 2008

FL: "this can get much bigger, very quickly"

Some blogs are tracking Miami's gathering caseload clouds...

From the Miami Herald:

Attorneys for Dade's poor vow to spurn most felony cases - Underfunded and overwhelmed with cases, the Miami-Dade Public Defender's office plans to refuse certain cases

... while I'm just hoping that our colleague Scoplaw can ride out the storm.

Suiting up for the first day of work

Congratulations to Emily, who has a new public defender job:

i start on monday. i have no idea what i'm going to wear.

Any wardrobe suggestions for new p.d.'s? You know, clothes to go with pink hair, dreadlocks or tattoos.

June 02, 2008

CT: superior p.d.'s

Gideon's right: this is a great story. From TheDay.com:

A Century Of Courtroom Experience Defending Poor Clients - New London's veteran public defenders have just about seen and dealt with it all

Choice excerpt:

”If you have issues with your self-worth or self-confidence, you're going to find it very difficult to prosper in a field of work where you're going to be continually misunderstood,” says (Peter E.) Scillieri.

Society's default method of evaluating something is to establish its price, says Scillieri. Many jump to the conclusion that if you haven't paid for something, it must be of little value. ”It bothers you when you first start out,” Haley says. “You try to talk to the client, telling them, 'I went to law school. I do this all day long.' But after a while, you get tired of explaining...”

A person could learn a lot from these guys.