December 30, 2008

Elements of style

Today I was in detention spending a pleasant hour with a client barely into the teen years, a child really, facing a scary felony accusation. This young person was far enough into the system to use a phrase like being on the outs, yet still innocent enough to use the word "hecka" in place of "hella," because hell's a swear word. My kid clients surprise me and impress me.

December 26, 2008

A present for my client's mom

It's Boxing Day, a good day for returned gifts and charitable acts. I'm in the courthouse parking lot after detention hearings, tapping away on my cellphone. I couldn't get every kid released today. After court, one of my client's mothers sat me down and we talked. She told me that she got the call on Christmas morning: the cops had picked up her son. She's happy, and not for a bad reason. Just now I watched her walking toward detention, to see her boy for the first time since he ran two months ago.

December 23, 2008

FL: life after Shirk


The next phase for White

After 34 years in one office, it’s not an easy question to answer. Public Defender Bill White has had the “What are you going to do next?” question following him around since Matt Shirk was elected as the next Public Defender for the Fourth Judicial Circuit in November...

“I’ve got an eye toward nonprofit right now,” said White. “There may be an opportunity to work for a nonprofit in an employee capacity.” He has been involved with Take Stock in Children and Communities in Schools of Jacksonville as part of his life outside the courtroom...

December 22, 2008

KS: new p.d., with much to have to overcome

Interesting character study from the Wichita Eagle:

Single mother perseveres to earn law degree - grit and effort anchor her life

Latina Alston is not yet 30. She has three children... She raised the children in poverty all their lives. That's about to change. Latina's story goes beyond absent fathers, food stamps and welfare checks.

People at the Wichita Bar Association know that of their 1,175 members, only eight are African-American - the newest member being Latina. Earlier this month, as Sedgwick County's newest assistant public defender, she helped clear a Wichita man of charges that could have put him in prison for years...

The 180+ comments following the article are interesting, too, in a "what's the matter with Kansas?" sort of way.

Via Legal Blog Watch, with tut-tutting by Carolyn Elefant at no extra charge.

December 19, 2008

OR: buttswatting and the karmic wheel

From the Boregonian:

Prosecutor of bottom-swatting boys is arrested in alleged assault

Debra Markham, a Yamhill County deputy district attorney who made national news in 2007 for prosecuting two McMinnville seventh-graders for swatting the bottoms of girls at their middle school, now faces criminal charges herself. Markham was arrested last month in Lincoln City for allegedly punching her husband in the face during a dispute...

December 16, 2008

Eyes of a child

I finished interviewing my client, and brought his mom in from the lobby to wrap up the appointment.

Instead of sitting back down, my client went over to the windowsill and spent the rest of the session focusing animately on my views of the mountains, the capitol, the traffic and the 7-11.

I'm privileged to represent kids.

Altitude sickness

I just went from the westside Grocery Outlet direct to Bayview Thriftway, and I swear it made me dizzy.

December 13, 2008

ID: D.I.Y., 83702

A time-travelling broadcast sent from my home town in the era of Mutant Pop, courtesy of YouTube and Save vs. Death:

Punk in Boise, Idaho (1985)

A "trip into Boise's cosmic counterculture" unfortunately entitled "Pretty in Punk"... (T)hese kids must have been brave as hell. I'm getting old.

Me too.

Via Boing Boing.

WA: pummelage

The latest in the cavalcade of violence against criminal defense lawyers; up in Snohomish County, this colleague never saw it coming:

See also the Everett Herald, Everett man charged in assault on Lynnwood lawyer - Everett man allegedly punched his former attorney

"The 5 little interns of the county’s PD..."

A bit of doggerel from Jaime the P.D. Intern at Red Red Whine:

I'm more than a little punchy and can barely keep my eyes open. So, in this totally delirious state, I give you The Public Defender's Tale based upon my time at the PD’s office. Yeah, kind of like the Canterbury Tales, but Chaucer I'm not...

December 08, 2008

Calling all commentators

Marketplace, that relentlessly perky radio show with a business slant from American Public Media, wants to know "how the current financial crisis is affecting the work of legal professionals." Have your say at (that is to say, here).


Big firms aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch (see Scott Greenfield's tough love in the Age of Layoffs (by way of Brian Tannebaum)).

Legal aid services and public defenders around the country are preparing for budget cutbacks – right at a time when their services are needed most ( this sounds like a good one for you, Alex - let's join the wave!).

How is the financial crisis hitting the legal industry?

December 04, 2008

UT & VT: "for great justice!"

Vermont v. Brillon news, from Provo's answer to Pravda:

Speedy Trial Law may Bring Greater Justice

Anxious to fulfill its duty to protect the people of Utah, the Attorney General's Office is asking the Supreme Court to fix a speedy trial rule that could allow criminals to avoid prosecution...

The error with the Vermont ruling, according to Assistant Attorney General Ryan Tenney, was that it could allow public defenders to delay trials and block the judicial process. “[This ruling would make the government] lose its ability to prosecute a criminal, based on the ‘unwillingness’ of a public defender to move the case forward,” Tenney said...

I hope that the BYU NewsNet Zoobie who cut and pasted this news release lands that internship with the AG's office, I really do.

December 03, 2008

Live from the courtroom

A moment ago:

Judicial person ( to juvenile's parent): "Your behavior is not appropriate."

Juvenile's parent ( to judicial person): "Neither is yours!"

And the parent left the courtroom, not even in handcuffs.

December 02, 2008

"No offense..."

By David J. Barend, from Exhibit A Boston:

What It’s Like Defending ‘The Guilty’: Thoughts From a Criminal Defense Attorney

“I just don’t see how you can represent these people. I mean, what if someone killed one of your relatives? How would you feel about that?”

“That depends. Are you throwing in-laws into the mix?”

WA: "it's going to be more expensive in the long run"

From the Olympian:

County workers fight for jobs - Speakers say cuts will be detrimental

Six speakers told Thurston County commissioners Monday that proposed job cuts to balance next year's budget carry serious ramifications. The commissioners are considering a proposal to lay off more than 7 percent of the county workforce — nearly 90 full-time-equivalent employees — because of rising costs and lagging revenue.

Under the budget proposal, the Office of Assigned Counsel — also known as public defenders — will lose eight employees and no longer represent indigent clients in Thurston County District Court. They will continue to represent clients charged in Superior Court. Alex Frix, a lawyer in the office, said the county would rely on private attorneys to take over the caseload. The shift could result in lawsuits over inadequate legal counsel, he said...

December 01, 2008

A public defender dog story

What happens when your pup doesn't know the code to your parents' house alarm, from Preaching to the Choir:

3 cops greeted us on our driveway. (I'm such a PD, my first instinct on seeing the cops was to tell them they couldn't come in to the house!) They insisted they wanted to go in first and clear the house, but I insisted all they would find was a 16 pound cocker spaniel...