November 30, 2008

A budget-balancing proposal

From your friends at Kansas Defenders:

If the state doesn't want to pay for indigent defense, it needs to prosecute fewer people (or at least fewer poor people)...

Purissima Olympia

We three went downtown today to admire the singing Christmas tree.

This is the only holiday concert I've attended where the carols contained the word "Beelzebub" (the kids started the show with a medley of Queen tunes. Seriously.)

November 25, 2008

WA: new RPC 1.8 (m) - the air up there, state bar version

Yodelling Llama and I went to the same CLE, and both were a bit chagrined to learn that most contracts for conflict defender services in this state are now considered unethical:

Now, I suspect this result of RPC 1.8(m) is an unintended consequence of poor drafting, and no one should really be too worried about losing his license just by getting paid to provide indigent defense services...

...because as p.d.'s we truly do not have enough to watch out for already. At the CLE, this rule was referred to as something along the lines of, "public policy preference posing as professional responsibility requirement" (fine sentiment though it may be).

November 24, 2008

FL: perils of politicians as public defenders

Out of Jax, Fla, political follies and fallout at the courthouse, and fun lawyer quotes too, courtesy of Channel 12 and Channel 4:

Public Defenders Featured In Oscar-Winning Documentary Fired

"I believe Mr. Shirk and his cronies, if they work to their maximum potential and use all of their talents, may achieve mediocrity," McGuiness told First Coast News.

New Public Defender Fires 10 Lawyers

"Well, Mr. Shirk had not yet reached pre-K when many of these attorneys were trying cases already. I think he is uneasy around those with skill and experience," said McGuiness.

The documentary is "Murder On A Sunday Morning." The lawyer quoted is Patrick McGuinness. The newly-elected lawyer is Matt Shirk (suitable last name, that).

Update from the Florida Times-Union: Public defender-elect fires 10 seasoned attorneys

November 20, 2008

Life in the therapeutic state

Heard today in juvenile drug court...

"We're here to support you, even if that means we have to lock you up."

... as my long conversion from drug court agnostic to drug court atheist continues.

Bonus link goes to Drug Court Justice: Experiences in a Juvenile Drug Court, by Kevin Whiteacre, Ph.D.:

Drug Court Justice takes an in-depth look at a Midwestern juvenile drug treatment court. Through observations and interviews conducted while serving as the contracted program evaluator, Kevin Whiteacre investigates how denial, surveillance, coercion, accountability, and definitions of success operate and interact in the juvenile drug court environment, and how they intertwine with institutional needs and authority structures. His findings suggest that some drug court practices may expose participants to potential harms that until now have been largely ignored in studies of drug courts. He concludes with suggestions for reducing the potential harms of juvenile drug courts.

Maybe I can get our court to order a copy.

November 19, 2008


From the AP:

Ethics dilemma for lawyers when inmates seek death

John Delaney faced the toughest moment of his legal career - his condemned client wanted to drop his appeals and die by injection, an act Delaney opposed and had been trained to try to prevent. "What do you say?" asked Delaney, a public defender in northern Kentucky who represented Marco Allen Chapman.

It's a question that has arisen 131 times since states resumed executions in 1977, and each time it leaves defense lawyers struggling against their training to act in the best interest of their clients and justice...

Attorneys are required to follow the client's wishes or have themselves removed from the case, said Michael Mello, a Vermont Law School professor who teaches ethics and death penalty law. "Their hands are pretty well tied," Mello said. "These are the cases that haunt you. This is the most hideous of cases."

That's how Gus Cahill felt when his client, Keith Eugene Wells, told him he wanted to die. Wells was convicted of beating a couple to death in 1990 in Idaho. He went through the mandatory appeals, then decided to waive any remaining legal options and was lethally injected in 1994. "I really liked Keith," said Cahill, a public defender in Boise. "You're just thinking, 'Oh, my God, I feel so sorry for being part of what Keith wanted to do...'"

I knew Gus from my Ada County p.d. time, and look up to him still. Keith Wells' choice had to have put him in a horrible bind.

I wish John Delaney well. Marco Allen Chapman is set to die this Friday night.

November 18, 2008

WA: manicure, pedicure, judicure

I'm still bummed out about work seven different ways, but today the Public Defender Crisis™ was good for a bitter little laugh. From Nicole Brodeur in the Seattle Times:

Short-order justice is served Among the trims in King County Executive Ron Sims' proposed 2009 budget is a reduction in the number of public defenders — those who fight in court for those who can't

If Sims' cuts go through, each half-time lawyer will be responsible for 725 of the expedited felonies. That's an hour and 20 minutes per client... I've had nail appointments that lasted longer than that.

Via Trial Ad Notes

November 17, 2008

Gideon strumpet

Scott at Simple Justice sticks up for the Rodney Dangerfields of the bar:

The Vast Mystery of Public Defenders

There is no mystery surrounding public defenders. The only mystery is how lawyers outside the practice of criminal law have managed not to notice these problems for decades, and how PDs have made Herculean efforts to fill the void we've left for them...

Thank you for that. Speaking as one of these mysterious p.d. strumpets, I hope that everyone with a bar license might read Scott's post.

November 16, 2008

Planning your next CLE?

Consider holding it in your state capitol building:
It's where I spent Friday, courtesy of the Washington Defender Association and OPD. Funky acoustics, uplifting surroundings.

Hit points

Like me, the dark public defender of the Sith has been down. But then he got some good news:

I've been promoted to a level 3 attorney. Someone asked me what this means and I explained that a level 3 attorney has +1 damage against a level 2 attorney in direct battle, and has immunity from a level 1 attorney...

"The picture is not pretty, and it's about to get uglier"

From Legal Ethics Forum:

The Growing Public Defender Crisis

See the comments, too. I propose a new model rule: it shall be presumptively unethical for any member of academia to call any lawyer "public pretender."

Via The Faculty Lounge.

November 15, 2008

Nation's in recession and what do we get?

Gideon's calling for a different sort of bailout.

Meanwhile, the Great Fringed One weighs in: Gerry Spence's blog.

November 13, 2008

Juvy blues

Light linking and posting this week. At the moment I'm extraordinarily bummed out about juvenile justice, and not just because Apache County, Arizona is prosecuting an 8-year-old for premeditated murder. This week I'm feeling like a collaborator, not in the pop psychology team-building sense, but in the Vichy French sense. My advocacy has done little to avoid some rotten outcomes for my kid clients.

Consequently, I'm grasping at any positive news I can find. Like this, from DOJ:

Justice Department Study Dispels Myths About Girls' Delinquency

Which leads to DOJ Girls' Delinquency webpage, featuring a stock photo of a j.d. whom many, many of my 16 and 17 year old clients would be totally into:The Center for Children and Youth Justice seems to be doing a couple of good things as well.

Erskine also had a feel-good moment on the job. I will again some time.

November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Veterans's / Armistice / Remembrance Day regards to all, particularly to the people of Fort Lewis.This year's holiday is memorable for my little family, as it's the first year that my wife has worked on-base there. "They also serve..."

November 09, 2008

MN: "my student loans are 40 percent of my monthly income"

From Minnesota Public Radio:

Public defenders moonlight to pay off school debt

The Minnesota Public Defender's office will ask the Legislature for about $20 million for the next biennium. Earlier this year, the office had to lay off attorneys... The office wants to hire back attorneys and try to raise salaries. For some Minnesota public defenders, getting a raise might allow them to stop moonlighting...

November 08, 2008

Leaving the assembly line

From the New York Times:

Citing Rising Workload, Public Lawyers Reject Cases

“Right now a lot of public defenders are starting to stand up and say, ‘No more: We can’t ethically handle this many cases...'”

November 06, 2008

NV: office space

From the LV Sun, by Tom Gorman, photo by Leila Navidi:

Long arm of the law wouldn’t fit in his office - Public defender thrives on job that’s part tough love

The small, windowless office where public defender Ben Saxe works isn’t much bigger than a jail cell...

ID & TX: things looking up for 300+ Idaho prisoners

From the Houston Chronicle:

Idaho ends contract with GEO-run Texas prison

The Idaho Department of Correction has terminated its contract with private prison company The GEO Group and will move the roughly 305 Idaho inmates currently housed at a GEO-run facility in Texas to a private prison in Oklahoma...

November 04, 2008


The 44th President of the United States

A change is gonna come

Have a happy Election Day.