July 31, 2009

Hiatus

The blog is five years old now. It's had a few good years, and a few years of gentle steady decline. It's given me a place to post about representation, depression, transitions, and a few odd obsessions (and post about the kid, dogs and cats). It's made me some excellent new friends and brought me into contact with some quite remarkable lawyers, investigators, law professors and others (if I skipped a link, look for yourself in the blogroll). And now it's time, arbitrarily, capriciously, to give the blog a rest. There were so few public defender blogs back in 2004; it's great to think how many followed, and how many there will be to come. This site will stay up, and maybe it even will be relaunched. Until then, happy trials to you, 'til we meet again.

- "Skelly"

Happy Trails - Roy Rogers

July 28, 2009

"From Time Out to Hard Time"

From the New York Times:

12 and in Prison

The editorial was prompted by the release of From Time Out to Hard Time: Young Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System by Michele Deitch of the LBJ School at the University of Texas (homeland of Grits for Breakfast).

The whole report is here (pdf file). If you care about what can happen to children 12 and younger in the system, it's highly recommended.

July 19, 2009

CA: don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge

From the Ventura County Star:

Public Defender's Office close to edge - Any death penalty cases will trigger need for more help, says Dammeyer

I just liked the message in the headline, I guess.

July 15, 2009

Hope for community corrections

In this month's Washington Monthly:

Jail Break - How smarter parole and probation can cut the nation’s incarceration rate

If we want to end the era of mass incarceration and replace it with a regime of less punishment and less crime, drug testing is only one of the ways to apply the central lesson of HOPE ("Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement"): that clearly communicated threats of swift, certain punishment really can change behavior, even when the punishment is modest. By thinking creatively, we could transform the entire range of community-based punishments into effective alternatives to incarceration. That would have a profound impact on offenders’ lives, on the number of people behind bars, and on the crime rate...

The book is When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment, by Mark Kleiman.

Via The Second Road, "where life intersects with recovery."

July 10, 2009

CA: East Bay "resident elocutionist" retires

From the Contra Costa Times:

Contra Costa public defender retires after 35-year career speaking for indigent defendants

In his 10 years as Contra Costa County's top public defender, David Coleman ruffled the feathers of more than a few prosecutors, yet they say they'll miss him... Coleman... will retire July 31 after 35 years with the Office of the Public Defender, leaving behind a legacy that stretches beyond becoming California's first African-American public defender when he was appointed by county supervisors in 1999...

July 05, 2009

Methland = USA

Oelwein, Iowa, described in Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town by Nick Reding, gets the Manhattan condescension treatment via New York Times book review:

The madness stalking tiny, defenseless Oelwein may eventually come for all of us...

Methamphetamine already has come for "us," Princeton boy. It's in Iowa and it's everywhere, even in places that matter to regular New York Times readers. Reding first picked up the trail in Idaho. From the Los Angeles Times review:

Journalist Nick Reding stumbled into Gooding, Idaho, in 1999, to report a magazine story about ranching... It was there that Reding first encountered crystal methamphetamine, and he didn't just see it in one place. It was everywhere... (A)s the meth epidemic exploded across small-town America... (a) book took root in his mind...


The book is excerpted here and here. Also reviewed in the Seattle Times and the Boston Globe. Remember, as the Washington Post review says:

(B)ig-city ignorance - fueled by the media - toward small-town decay is both dangerous and appalling.

Via Think Outside the Cage and The Real Costs of Prison Weblog

July 02, 2009

40-some years in 20-some songs

Artifacts excavated in response to this meme:

Down In The Boondocks - Billy Joe Royal: the earliest pop song I can remember. Loved the word "boondocks" - had no idea what it meant.

Mr. Tambourine Man - Bob Dylan / The Byrds (tie): with an older brother and four older sisters, songs like this, "Puff The Magic Dragon," and "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am" were my nursery rhymes.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles: apart from a vague recall of The Ed Sullivan Show and Gemini launches, my first memory of a big cultural event, as my sisters went to the Grand Central on State Street to buy this album the day it came out.

Mr. Big Stuff - Jean Knight: "The VCR the DVD, there wasn't none of that crap back in 1970." AM radio was wondrous when I was my son's age. I loved my family's radios, Radio Shack stereo, record players, player piano, reel-to-reel tape recorder. Years later I was delighted to hear Everclear sample this song.

Baba O'Riley - The Who / Wasteland - The Jam (tie): of course later I morphed into an alienated and angst-ridden underachiever who took himself way too seriously (the term "emo kid" had yet to be invented).

Blitzkreig Bop - The Ramones: I snuck into a bar to see them senior year of high school. What an unexpected place to find such a gust of fresh air.

Don't Worry About The Government - Talking Heads: happy college days, looking forward to a proud future in public service (this was just before Morning in America).

The Walls Came Down - The Call: "They all stood there laughing... They're not laughing anymore!" I galumphed around my dorm room to this on the morning of graduation.

Independence - Gang of Four: "It's enough, but less than I imagined." Post-college days, soundtrack to ramen dinners.

Gulf Coast Highway - Nanci Griffith: studying for the bar, a true friend sent me mixtapes which (along with "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd") got me through.

Free Nelson Mandela - Special AKA: Great song still captures my shared basement office with the Mandela picture, and a good era for watching walls (and The Wall) start to come down.

Runaway Train - Soul Asylum: I reacted to a request for a marriage proposal by high-tailing it to the Baltics. I swear Margi paid every radio station in Rīga to play this song non-stop to bring me back to my senses (and her). It worked.

About A Girl / All Apologies - Nirvana (tie): another gust of something fresh, this one Olympia-scented. I drove around singing along with the Unplugged CD on the morning of my wedding, the first and only, to the aforementioned Margi.

If I Were Brave - Shawn Colvin: "Would I be saved if I were brave and had a baby?"

Lord Protect My Child - Bob Dylan: the answer to the previous question, for my wife and me - "Yes."

Into The Fire - Bruce Springsteen: September 11, 2001, my Brooklyn-born mother-in-law called us to turn on the TV immediately... "May your strength give us strength, may your faith give us faith, may your hope give us hope, may your love give us love."

Ne Klepeći Nanulama - Nedžad Salković: less than four months later, January 2002, sadness and selfishness, noble and ignoble motives found me thousands of miles from my wife and toddler volunteering in an ethnically cleansed city in Bosnia. I came back. Bosnia stayed in me.

Twin Falls - Built To Spill: My wife the TF native hates this song. She also hates when I preface warm feelings for the town where I started my little family with, "As much as I hate Twin..."

Olympia, WA - Rancid / NOFX (tie): For the first time in decades, I don't wish I was on the highway to anywhere else.

June 30, 2009

"Experienced lawyers lead the way"

From Metropolitan Corporate Counsel, an interview with Jean Berman, executive director of the International Senior Lawyers Project:

We've done a number of projects involving assisting criminal defense lawyers for the poor. In Eastern Europe we sent lawyers to Bulgaria, Lithuania, Mongolia and Ukraine to help set up the first public defender offices there. We also work with an organization called International Bridges to Justice ("IBJ"), which trains defense lawyers in China. We sent a career public defender from Minnesota to work with IBJ for three months in the fall of 2008 to help train lawyers working in the juvenile justice system...


I'm rapidly approaching senior status myself. Fortunately, I'm very immature for my age.

June 27, 2009

ID: Monday's judgment day for Canyon Co indigent defense

From Nampa / Caldwell's Idaho Press-Tribune:

Commissioners will pick Canyon public defender

Canyon County commissioners will deliberate for the purpose of appointing a public defender Monday morning. They will choose from Virginia Bond, Mark Mimura, Scott Fouser and Chad Gulstrom...


Update 06/29/09: it's Mark Mimura.

June 26, 2009

Joe is 90 today

Happy birthday to my father.

June 24, 2009

VA & ID: volunteering for DP a "fatal attraction"

From the Charlottesville Daily Progress, June 21:

Death request raises ethical, legal questions

Somewhere in the Charlottesville Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney sits a plea agreement that could lead to the execution of a city man accused of killing an 11-year-old boy. One of Waverly “Eddie” Whitlock’s defense attorney has said in court that his client wants to sign the agreement, which would request the death penalty as punishment for a capital murder conviction...

The act of volunteering for the death penalty, although uncommon, has raised legal, ethical and moral issues for others involved in capital cases... Following a client’s wishes can be more difficult if he wants to die.

August “Gus” Cahill, the chief deputy of the Ada County Public Defender’s Office in Idaho, represented death penalty volunteer Keith Eugene Wells in the early 1990s. Wells, who was killed by lethal injection in 1994 at age 31, was the first and only person to be executed in Idaho since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976...

After a judge sentenced Wells to death, Cahill said the case was reviewed and affirmed by the Idaho Supreme Court. Once the post-conviction process began, Cahill said Wells asked to drop any further appeals and fired the lawyers appointed after his sentencing. “He wasn’t suicidal,” Cahill said. “He didn’t want to be dead so much as go through a process that he thought would ultimately be fruitless...”


But see the Charlottesville Daily Progress, June 25:

Defender files motion to quit Whitlock capital murder case

A Richmond-based capital defender may no longer represent a Charlottesville man accused of killing an 11-year-old boy last summer.

Defense attorney David Baugh filed a motion late last week in Charlottesville Circuit Court to withdraw himself and the Office of the Capital Defender as counsel for Waverly “Eddie” Whitlock.

“In support of the motion for leave to withdraw, counsel would assert that there has arisen a conflict of interest between the defendant and his defense attorneys which ethically compels withdrawal,” the motion said...

June 23, 2009

Joe is 10 today

Happy Birthday, son.

June 18, 2009

WA: client in court makes a run for it - what would you do?

From the Spokesman-Review:

Municipal court brawl leads to arrest

A brawl that began when a man tried fleeing a courtroom this morning ended with the man, a deputy and three attorneys falling onto a bench of bystanders, according to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Micah W. Hasselstrom, 34, ran when Spokane Municipal Court Judge Tracy Staab ordered him jailed with increased bail after he said he didn’t plan on appearing in court again, a news release said.

Hasselstrom’s public defender, Tony Tompkins, grabbed his leg to hold him in place as Deputy John Pederson tried handcuffing him, and a struggle ensued... Public defenders Francis Adewale and Andy Hess joined the struggle, and the group fell onto the bench, knocking a 68-year-old woman to the floor...


There's a lively discussion taking place in the Washington criminal defense bar over the lawyers' actions in essentially effecting an arrest, roughly dividing into "respect the client - let him be free to make his own mistakes" and "protect the client - let him be free at least from a new felony escape charge." Myself, I think I'd go hands-off, but not having been in a moment like that, I'm hard-pressed to second-guess.

June 16, 2009

AZ: "these people annoy me"

The Sloth Bear has been a p. d. for just a little while, but has developed some distinct likes and dislikes in clients:

Categorizing Infuriants

If you ever find yourself speaking with a public defender, try not to be any of these people...

June 14, 2009

All this, and a baby moose!

It's public defender intern season. Here's a report from Alaska, from Justin of Baylor Law School:

Aside from the legal community, Alaska is a great place to intern because of the numerous opportunities for outdoor activity here... It’s not unusual to see a moose or two on your way to work, and sometimes they even come right up to the office.

June 07, 2009

HI: "you can't subject the Constitution to budget cuts"

When it comes to cuts, things are no different in the islands; from the Maui News:

Furloughs leave defendants in a bind - Public defender office closures affecting courtroom schedules

The Office of the Public Defender, which includes a dozen attorneys on Maui, will be shut down three Fridays each month to comply with state worker furloughs required by Gov. Linda Lingle. The closures, scheduled to begin July 1, have affected some courtroom schedules on Maui and Molokai and have raised concerns about representation...

"They have the right to counsel. We have to adhere to the Constitution," said Jim Rouse, one of eight deputy public defenders assigned to... Maui County felony cases. "You can't, just because of budget constraints, eliminate fundamental rights guaranteed to all Americans..."

"It's not like anybody's getting rich being a public defender. You're a public defender because you're idealistic, you believe in the Constitution, you believe people are entitled to help. You do it with passion. You do it with vigor. Now they're telling us you have to do it 14 percent less of the time..."


Individual P.D.'s offices are no different either, it seems. Like the coat rack? Any bets those aren't client go-to-court clothes?

June 03, 2009

Thanks, ACLU! Thanks, AP!

Feeling the love in the Washington Post:

Nationwide, public defender offices are in crisis

"If you can't afford an attorney, and you fall into the criminal justice system, you are really, really screwed," said (paralegal) Demetrius Thomas of the New York American Civil Liberties Union...

June 01, 2009

ID: Kolestani - "I murdered Ehsan"

From the Times-News:

Refugee from Iran admits to murder

(Nastaran /) Majid Kolestani fought to wear women's clothes during a murder trial, but in the end, won't dress for it at all. The 42-year-old transgender Iranian refugee who identifies as a woman pleaded guilty on Monday in Twin Falls 5th District Court to first-degree murder in a plea agreement that will likely send Kolestani to prison for 18 years to life...

"The fact that I went to Goodwin Procter doesn't mean I'm not passionate about doing this type of work"

..but it's a pretty good hint. From Law.com:

Are Public Interest Lawyers Getting Crowded Out by Deferred Associates? - One recent law grad looking for public interest work notes, 'We don't come with a $70,000-plus salary with benefits intact. Psychologically, it's hard to deal with that reality.'

Sending incoming associates into temporary public-interest jobs - with a healthy stipend to cover their costs of living - is intended to be a fiscally smart and compassionate way for law firms to handle an overabundance of young attorneys...

But some recent law school graduates who have spent years preparing for public-interest careers worry that law firms are hurting their job prospects by flooding the already competitive public-interest job market...

May 31, 2009

ID: "Idaho can make up any law they want when it comes to the alleged attack on a 5 year-old"

From the Idaho Press-Tribune:

Jury trial set for boy accused of assaulting 5-year-old girl in Nampa

Judge Thomas Ryan... set an August jury trial date for a 15-year-old Nampa boy accused of sexually assaulting and beating a 5-year-old girl... (Trevor) Reizenstein will be tried as an adult... The Idaho Supreme Court ruled in a 4-1 decision last month that the boy be tried as an adult...

Reizenstein was 12 years old at the time the girl was attacked.


Update: Scott at Simple Justice hasn't lost his sense of outrage. I'm relieved that I'm not raising my son in my home state.

May 20, 2009

CA: Yolo's cool old hippie retires

From the Sacramento Bee:

Yolo County loses best-known employee among exodus of early retirees

Barry Melton knows his days as a young rock icon, when he took the stage at Woodstock with a tousle of blond curls, are long past... But at 61, Melton – the Yolo County public defender who became famous as "The Fish" in the Vietnam-era band Country Joe and the Fish – leaves at the top of his game as a lawyer.

He said he decided to retire next month partly to save jobs in his office as Yolo County struggles with a historic budget crisis. "It's either that," Melton said, "or put some young attorney in the unemployment line..."


Such a cool guy.

May 13, 2009

ID: does wardrobe malfunction averted = justice malfunction avoided?

From The MountainGoat Report:

Wardrobe Ruling In 'Exotic Case'

Gender identity won't be on trial this June in Twin Falls County but it is difficult for many to believe otherwise.

If you haven't been following the story of Nastaran, or legally Majid, Kolestani, a transgender Iranian refugee accused in the shooting death of the man with whom she shared an apartment in Twin Falls, get caught up here...

Now from the Times-News comes the latest: "Kolestani can dress as woman, judge rules"... That the defense felt it necessary to make such a request says something about the territory in which Twin Falls County finds itself...

May 09, 2009

ID: wondering if the fix is in for Canyon Co PD

From the Idaho Press-Tribune:

Committee selected to find new public defender for county

Third District Administrative Judge Juneal Kerrick has appointed a committee of three local attorneys to consider candidates who want to be appointed the next public defender for Canyon County... This panel will review the seven applicants for the public defender post... (T)he Canyon County commissioners, who will make the final selection... The new contract will be effective Aug. 1.

Local attorneys Klaus Wiebe and Scott Fouser hold the position at this time and recently sued the county and the state, accusing the county of shopping for the "bottom" of adequate services for its indigent defendants...


Also interesting to note the number of former long-time prosecutors on the list who've found a new interest in indigent defense.

April 30, 2009

ID: Canyon Co low-bid defense? No

From Dennis at SCOIDBlog:

Canyon County & State of Idaho Sued Over Public Defender Services

The Canyon County Public Defenders have sued the State and Canyon County. Wiebe and Fouser, P.A. currently holds the public defender contract, but recently the county invoked a 90-day termination provision and then sought bids. The complaint alleges that the County Board of Commissioners stated that it "wanted to find the bottom" on costs for public defender services...

From the Idaho Press - Tribune:

County, state face lawsuit

Is this part of a national trend?

Cutting and gutting indigent defense? Well, yes, it has been. PD's pushing back? I hope so.

( though the author seems to see the nefarious hand of the ACLU behind all this, the article also has links to the Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief ( pdf files 1, 2, 3 ) and some courthouse gossip )

April 23, 2009

WA: Grant County gets it in gear

From the Wenatchee World:

Public defense pilot project posts dramatic results in Grant County

Two years ago, 93 juveniles arrested for crimes in Grant County pleaded guilty at their first court appearance before an attorney was even assigned to them. Last year, only one child did.

Grant County was one of three places in the state chosen for a pilot project last year aimed at providing better defense for indigent and juvenile people who are charged in Washington. The state provided $100,000 to hire an attorney to be present at every juvenile's first court appearance in Grant County.

As a result, not only did those children not plead guilty without knowing all their options, but many of them were able to participate in treatment and counseling programs and received deferred sentences rather than detention for their crimes...

April 21, 2009

ID: another proud to be from Idaho moment

From the Idaho State Journal:

Inmate duct taped

The first hint that Nicklas Frasure's hearing was going to be unusual came at the outset when the man attempted to fire his court-appointed counsel. It eventually culminated with the man's mouth bound with duct tape in an attempt to quell his frequent and irrational outbursts...


The attempt to fire the p.d.? Not unusual. The duct tape? Unusual. Cruel and unusual? Who am I to judge? It's Idaho. (regards to court - appointed counsel, a law school classmate of mine)

April 16, 2009

Reclaiming futures, one blog at a time

By request ( and by professional and personal interest ):

Reclaiming Futures Launches Blog Dedicated to Substance Abuse and Teens in the Juvenile Justice System

Reclaiming Futures Every Day is a professionally-staffed blog that aims to keep people informed of the latest happenings in juvenile justice and substance abuse treatment. Launched by Reclaiming Futures, an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, it can be found at http://blog.reclaimingfutures.org, and is designed to help readers:

* Discuss the national challenge of helping teens break the cycle of drugs, alcohol and crime.
* Comment on new developments in teen alcohol and drug treatment and juvenile justice reform.
* Stay in touch with what's going on in the 23 communities using the proven Reclaiming Futures approach.
* Receive expert opinions and commentary from regular contributors who are leaders in the field...


Added to the blog roll.

April 15, 2009

DA: "someone must stand with the accused against the might of the state"

NPR turns its attention to us:

Report Calls Out Flaws In Public Defender System

And the block quote they run with on the web page is from a prosecutor?

“We're not there just to convict. Our job is to find justice. And I need a person standing with the defendant to help me do that.”


Public defenders: necessary if you want a side of justice with that conviction.

The report itself is, "Justice Denied: America's Continuing Neglect of Our Constitutional Right to Counsel."

April 11, 2009

ID: "while a person's clean and sober we should be helping them with options"

From the Times-News:

Program progression - Twin Falls County Jail tries treatment to ease crowding

A rare look at the Twin Falls County Jail and a new drug program that will be available for those serving time for drug crimes...

April 09, 2009

Context is everything

There are a number of ways to read this UPI headline:

Public defender chosen for porno teacher

Of course I picked the wrong one. My apologies to the former colleague I thought had been chosen to teach this.

April 08, 2009

Chicago after dark

From timesonline.co.uk:

Bob Dylan on Barack Obama, Ulysses Grant and American Civil War ghosts - Listen to an exclusive track from Bob Dylan's new album, and read his views on US politics and history, exclusively on Times Online

Bill Flanagan: In that song Chicago After Dark were you thinking about the new President?

Bob Dylan: Not really. It’s more about State Street and the wind off Lake Michigan and how sometimes we know people and we are no longer what we used to be to them. I was trying to go with some old time feeling that I had...

April 05, 2009

Greetings from Chicago

Law butcher for the world, city of Andrea Lyon's shoulders, my family and I are enjoying your company.

April 03, 2009

WA: chop chop

We made KIRO TV tonight, and not for a good reason:

Huge Impact Possible With Cuts To Thurston County Courts

Four public defenders who handle a total of more than a 1,000 cases a year are on the chopping block - the result will be a caseload increase for the remaining public defenders with potentially serious consequences.

"They're going to get overburdened, they're going to get stressed out and they're not going to give the kind of defense that they should give," said Sally Harrison, director of the Office of Assigned Counsel...


Video here.

That's it, I'm off to vacation (unpaid - thanks, budget cuts!)

April 02, 2009

Facebook face

This post from the blog "My day is better than yours" put me in mind of that great p.d. investigator and social network authority, Sancho Villa:

... and do you have a Facebook?

When our office takes a new case, we send our investigator out to the client to... collect the basic info to open up the case - name, address, auto insurance info, and oh yeah, if the client has a Facebook.

(It is worthwhile to point out that when I worked at the Public Defender's office at Juvenile Hall, knowing whether or not our clients there had a Myspace or a Facebook was valuable information to us. Just by looking at their pictures we would find out if our own clients were lying to us...)


Or to their p.o., or to their treatment provider, or to their drug court judge...

"'Bummer, dude' doesn't really cover it, does it?"

One of my colleagues made quite an impression on Fallout Kid:

The cat that runs the show for Juvenile Law is a nice enough guy... He talked about how he is a Washington State Juvenile Public Defender. He handles a huge f*cking caseload: 100 cases, sometimes 80... (F)or the private practice I work, I sometimes feel like I'm running my ass into the ground with about 60-70 active files. 100? F*ck, that's crazy...


I'll need to check my caseload stats in the morning.

March 31, 2009

IL: Ed Burnette's swan song

From Chicago Breaking News Center:

Public defender wins last case over Stroger

During his last day in office today, Cook County Public Defender Edwin Burnette was savoring a legal victory over County Board President Todd Stroger. The victory came in the form of a unanimous ruling from the First District Illinois Appellate Court. It made clear the public defender - and not the board president - has control over hiring, firing and discipline in the public defender's office...


See also Cook County Public Defenders Blog, Burnette Victorious in Suit Against Stroger

(My kind of town. My vacation there starts this Saturday.)

March 29, 2009

Hey, we could use some stimulus over here!

From the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, all you could want to know about Thursday's Congressional hearing concerning indigent defense:

Hearing on the Representation of Indigent Defendants in Criminal Cases: A Constitutional Crisis in Michigan and Other States?

In a historic move, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on March 26, 2009 to investigate the failure of a state to uphold the right to counsel for those accused of a crime, a right promised by the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s Sub-Committee on Crime, Terrorism & Homeland Security focused on the serious flaws in Michigan’s public defense system, which include numerous questionable practices, from untrained and overburdened attorneys to slight-of-hand maneuvers to get the accused to unwittingly waive their right to an attorney...

Update: the ACLU blog has more, actually.

PA: evil judge, juvy do-over

From the New York Times:

Clean Slates for Youths Sentenced Fraudulently

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on Thursday ordered the slate cleaned for hundreds of youths who had been sentenced by a corrupt judge.

The young people had been sent to privately run detention centers from 2003 to 2008 as part of a judicial kickback scheme that shocked Pennsylvania and the nation. The judge in the cases, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. of Luzerne County, is one of two who pleaded guilty last month to wire fraud and conspiracy for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks.

The exact number of records to be expunged was not stated in the court’s order
(pdf file); a special master is investigating the cases...

March 26, 2009

WA: high school killing - intentional or delusional?

From the TNT:

Foss High shooter’s fate now up to jury

A jury Thursday began deliberating the first-degree murder case against Douglas S. Chanthabouly, who’s accused of shooting a fellow student to death at Tacoma’s Foss High School two years ago...


Update: guilty of murder in the second degree.

The great recession hits home

Earlier this week all our support staff were reduced to 3/4 time, at 3/4 the pay. Today lay-offs were announced, effective May 31st, for four dedicated young lawyers in my office. The rest of us will do one week's leave without pay and apply what were our COLA's to our health insurance premiums. If only we worked someplace that provides a service to society, like AIG.

March 25, 2009

ID: Bull Connor's ghost sighted south of Boise

From the AP:

Mean dogs stand guard at Idaho prison

Nobody has broken out of the Idaho State Correctional Institution in more than 20 years. Prison officials like to think a hard-bitten corps of sentries with names like Cookie, Bongo and Chi Chi has had something to do with that. The institution is the only state prison in the U.S. to use snarling, snapping sentry dogs to patrol its perimeter...

24 mean dogs — mostly German shepherds, rottweilers and Belgian malinois, with a few boxers and pit bulls — roam the space between the inner and outer chain-link fences 24 hours a day, ferociously defending their territory...

Dogs were once widely used as sentries in the U.S... The practice fell out of favor during the civil rights era as police dogs became associated with racist and repressive law enforcement...


Just one more way my home state lives up to its motto: "Idaho is what America was."

March 24, 2009

ID: "If I hadn’t have got here, I’d have been dead"

The Idaho State Journal is continuing its "City on the Hill" series on the Pocatello Women’s Correctional Center, with the most recent installments covering medical and mental health care in prison:

Treating Inmates

Every woman in Idaho placed under the care of the Department of Correction is screened at PWCC, even if they are headed for other facilities. The screening Includes a physical, pap smear, a mental health evaluation, blood work and a dental exam. To tend to the inmates' medical needs, the prison must offer what is essentially a small hospital...

Treating Inmates, Part 2

Most inmates with underlying mental health problems are able to function in the general population with medication, support groups or both. Those who can’t are housed in the maximum security unit... until they can be stabilized and reintegrated into the general population. Medication is one tool to help the women, but they often must address their underlying emotions to achieve more durable mental health...

March 21, 2009

Proverbs 12:6

With thanks to Life, Love & Laughter, from a March 2009 comment to a March 2006 post on a similar theme.

March 19, 2009

ID: Judge Burdick, how could you?

From Tara Rowe of The Political Game:

Still don't think Zeb Bell's voice is an influence outside of his direct broadcast range in the Magic Valley? Zeb's guest this morning, a regular guest Senator Denton Darrington (R-Declo) brought on a guest of his own: Justice Roger S. Burdick. Yep, a justice of the Idaho Supreme Court. All of this after the bigoted comments of Rep. John A. "Bert" Stevenson (R-Rupert). Amazing.

I'm ashamed and embarrassed for a judge I liked.

(Your Honor, it wouldn't have been hard to google Zeb Bell in advance to see why you wouldn't want to appear on this hateful man's show - the Mountain Goat could've told you all you needed to know. At least I'm hoping you didn't know; the alternative doesn't jibe with my respect for you.)

CA: kind-hearted principal in a black robe

From Monterey County Weekly:

Tough Love in Juvenile Court - Judge Jonathan Price works to rehabilitate Monterey County’s youth

An ashamed-looking teenager shuffles into Judge Jonathan Price’s courtroom wearing bright orange sandals. The 16-year-old boy settles into a wooden chair next to his cheerless mom, as well as his attorney... The teen just finished a stint in Juvenile Hall for stealing a car and allegedly has gang ties – but Price sees promise...

“You should be able to assist [juveniles] in being better when they are done with you,” Price says, adding one caveat: “If they don’t want to change, you have to be able to deal with that, too.”

March 18, 2009

The view from the jury box

How it looks to Crista in California:

They are public defenders and their dress, their hair, their speech all says "not paid enough..."

Gideon v. Wainwright, age 46

Awfully nice of Dennis at SCOIDBlog to remember Gideon on his big day:

Today is the anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright. A sincere SCOIDBlog thank you to all the public defenders and appointed counsel...

March 17, 2009

WA: turning away from the flat rate in Pasco

From the Tri-City Herald:

Franklin County urged to restructure public defender contracts

Franklin County should restructure its public defense contracts to reduce its vulnerability to lawsuits, county commissioners were warned Monday. "A county actually can be sued for the indigent defense services they provide, whether they be insufficient, of low quality or whatnot," said Eric Hsu, public defense coordinator for Benton and Franklin counties.

He pointed out two problems he sees in Franklin County's public defender contracts. First, when public defenders give up their county contracts to work elsewhere, the county holds them responsible for pending cases. The attorneys are supposed to keep managing those cases until they're resolved, including traveling back to Franklin County for court dates. The contracts don't require the county to pay for those services. "So that creates a situation where you have an attorney that has a large incentive to not pay attention to cases that are left over ... because they're not being paid for them," Hsu said.

Second, he is concerned the county doesn't pay defense attorneys additional compensation for days actually spent in trial. Without per diem compensation, attorneys could have an incentive to encourage clients to plead out rather than go to trial. "A contract that has no trial per diem can be regarded as a 'flat fee' contract ... and, to the extent it financially discourages trying cases, is very possibly unconstitutional," Hsu stated...

March 16, 2009

CA: p.d. can fight city hall

Longtime blog readers know that I think San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi is pretty damn cool. Still, it's always worth considering contrary views, like this one from Ken Garcia at the Examiner:

Public defender’s grandstanding masks office issues

Politicians grandstanding in public will almost certainly attract headlines. To that end, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi has been a busy man as of late.

Adachi claims he wants money — not necessarily more scrutiny — which makes his recent actions rather curious, because some stunts have been known to be dangerous to your health...

March 15, 2009

ID: the cost of justice in Lewiston

From the AP,via the P-I:

Murder trials boost N. Idaho county's expenses

Two murder trials in northern Idaho's Nez Perce County have caused the county to dip into special funds but the county hasn't gone over budget, an officials says...

March 10, 2009

Walter Mondale ♥s p.d.s

For indigent defense, the former Vice-President wants to know, where's the beef? From the Washington Post:

A Key Legal Right at Risk

It is crucial that the states rededicate themselves to providing competent defense counsel to all people facing criminal charges who cannot afford to pay... We cannot move forward until we stop the erosion of Gideon's promise to criminal defendants.

(I prefer the on-line headline: "Overturning Gideon v Wainwright by Stealth")

March 08, 2009

The scourge of lawyer advertising

Because if you've been injured, somebody somewhere owes you money:

Unscrupulous? Perhaps.

AS: tweaking, fa'a Samoa

Take one of this blog's long-time preoccupations, add one of its odd enthusiasms, and what do you get? Methamphetamine news from American Samoa. From Radio New Zealand:

Public Defender warns of growing drug problem in American Samoa

The American Samoa Public Defender, Ruth Risch, has urged the territory to pay attention to the growing drug problem...


And this too from the AmSam p.d.:

She says expulsion of high school students who drink, smoke or cause fights is the worst type of discipline...

Couldn't agree more, particularly on days when my clients are going into detention for being expelled. Like I've said, paradise.

March 03, 2009

MT: p.d. work not recession - proof

An update from The AJB's and Me on the effect of the downturn on some of our contractor colleagues:

...(T)he State of Montana Office of Public Defender may change how they handle their conflict cases, resulting in a significant decrease in the availability of contract work for us and many of our friends. Basically that's like getting advance notice that layoffs are coming at your work... We naively thought we had pretty recession proof work because in hard times more people need public defenders...

Some of us inside p.d. offices thought we might be immune too. We're nowhere near home-free yet.

(This blog also contains many fine photos, taken by the lawyer / blogger, of life in Gallatin County; its title picture looks like a Russell Chatham painting.)

March 01, 2009

MN: "this job is stressful because, if you care, you can't help but be emotional"

Good "Minnesota Profile" of a p.d. in The Cities, from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

Michael Holland: The defense never rests - With the courts in financial crisis, public defender Michael Holland barely has time to take a breath between cases

"There's got to be a breaking point," Holland says. "The amount of poor people is growing, especially in an economy like this. My clients get the best out of me, but will I have to shortchange them and do a half-job on all my cases instead of a full job on less cases? Something's got to give..."


Bonus link goes to Mirror of Justice, The Human Dignity of the Accused and the Vocation of the Public Defender

February 25, 2009

My fellow Idahoans

Please check out my very smart friend Dennis Benjamin's SCOIDBlog:

"keeping an eye on the doings of the Supreme Court of Idaho and the lower state courts from a criminal defense point of view with news, commentary, gossip and rumor, satire, poetry and more."

("Poetry?")(The blog bills itself as a team effort - other Idaho friends appear, including Deborah Whipple - but so far, judging by number of posts, Dennis is the MVP)

CA: another good pd gone too soon

From the Sacramento Bee:

Obituary: Public defender fought for life on death row, at home

Jay Colangelo, a top California public defender who fought for death row inmates while battling for his own life against a rare type of cancer, died Saturday at age 55...

"He read 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in eighth grade and never looked back..."

February 23, 2009

TX: big heart broken in Wichita Falls

A number of tributes to long-time Wichita County public defender John Curry, who died last week aged 47:

From the Times Record News - City mourning loss of Curry

From KFDK (with video) - John Curry Obituary and Memorial Service Planned for Former Public Defender

(those who know me personally will know how this big man's death touches me personally)

February 22, 2009

PA: judge - "I just don’t believe I have to spoon-feed people"

From the Scranton Times-Tribune:

Nearly half of Luzerne cases lacked representation

For years, Luzerne County Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. denied juvenile defendants their rights, imprisoned them over the recommendations of probation officers and took millions in kickbacks from the co-owner of two juvenile detention centers that earned nearly $30 million with his help...

Interviews and court documents portray Judge Ciavarella’s courtroom as a place where the outcome of cases was decided well before a hearing. Judge Ciavarella pressured court staff to recommend detention, even in cases where staffers believed detention wasn’t warranted, federal prosecutors allege...


Full rundown from Wilkes-Barre's CitizensVoice.com: Court Corruption Probe

February 19, 2009

Coming soon: one stop shopping

Check this out: Sancho at Tales of a Public Defender Investigator is setting up a public defender wiki. Still in beta, but what a cool concept. Thanks, subcommandante.

Our ranks, increased by one

Humongous headline over at Not For The Monosyllabic:

I'm a real life public defender!!!!!
I GOT THE JOB!!


We accept you, one of us, one of us!

MN: "it should be about justice and not about the cost"

The beleagured underpaid watchdog of justice trope again, this time from MinnPost.com:

A stark contrast in courts: Upstairs, the pricey lawyer-filled Coleman-Franken trial; downstairs, an overworked public defender

Michael Kunkel's work was done. For the moment... His hearing before the Minnesota Court of Appeals, including rapid-fire, rugged questioning from the three justices, was over. But his day was not. Kunkel, 29, was gathering his belongings for a parole hearing in Anoka County 25 miles (away). He has another 30 or so cases on his desk back at the State Public Defender's Office...

Just so happens Kunkel's venue today was Courtroom 200 of the Minnesota Judicial Center. It's directly beneath Courtroom 300, the daily venue for the Norm Coleman - Al Franken recount trial. Same building, different stage. Same justice system, different approach. Same profession, different league... ..It may seem a stretch to juxtapose the Franken - Coleman trial, its high-powered lawyers and its absentee ballots with Kunkel and his indigent sex offender client who needs a public defender to assist him...


In this case it is a stretch. Perhaps my days in the two-tier system have drained my outrage, but I'm not offended that in a close U.S. Senate race with national implications, the suits have taken over one courtroom. Besides, it provides an opportunity for curious reporters to take the elevator down to the depths where we work, and to bring back stories of the routine inequities that they find.

February 18, 2009

Happy birthday Wallace Stegner

The American writer Wallace Stegner was born one hundred years ago today."There was a time up there in Idaho when everything was wrong... Did you come down out of that into some restful 30° angle and live happily ever after?" - Angle of Repose (1971)

(Parenthetically, today's also our 14th wedding anniversary)

February 12, 2009

PA: juvenile injustice, judicial avarice

The juvenile reformers and public defenders have been talking about this, and now it's made the New York Times:

Judges Plead Guilty in Payoffs for Jailing Youths

(O)n Thursday... (J)udge, Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., and a colleague, Michael T. Conahan, appeared in federal court in Scranton, Pa., to plead guilty to wire fraud and income tax fraud for taking more than $2.6 million in kickbacks to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers... While prosecutors say that Judge Conahan, 56, secured contracts for the two centers to house juvenile offenders, Judge Ciavarella, 58, was the one who carried out the sentencing to keep the centers filled.

“In my entire career, I’ve never heard of anything remotely approaching this,” said Senior Judge Arthur E. Grim, who was appointed by the State Supreme Court this week to determine what should be done with the estimated 5,000 juveniles who have been sentenced by Judge Ciavarella since the scheme started in 2003.

Many of them were first-time offenders and some remain in detention. The case has shocked Luzerne County... And it raised concerns about whether juveniles should be required to have counsel either before or during their appearances in court and whether juvenile courts should be open to the public or child advocates...

February 11, 2009

UT: 60.4% chance of pissing off the DP jury pool

The story's less inflammatory than the headline, but still, an interesting way to start picking a "jury for life," from the Ogden Standard-Examiner:

Homicide defense motion excludes LDS jury members

The defense has filed a motion seeking to keep off Riqo Perea's jury any members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who adhere to the church's past teachings of blood atonement.

Such jurors would be much more likely to vote for an execution, according to the motion filed in 2nd District Court, where Perea faces the death penalty in a 2007 gang homicide. "Utah's population contains a significant percentage of members of one religion ... members of the LDS Church make up an estimated 60.4 percent of the state's population," reads the motion...


Just guessing here that the percentage of Mormons who adhere to anything close to blood atonement is more than a bit south of 60%. Also guessing that the Colorado Method hasn't spread to Weber County. Oh, and yes, this issue has come up in Idaho before.

February 09, 2009

WA: cut advocacy for kids now, pay later

From the Tacoma News Tribune:

Cut TeamChild and you put kids, budgets at risk

When legislators consider cutting $500,000 a year for TeamChild, they should ask themselves one question: Do they want the kids it now serves to grow up to be inmates or taxpayers?

February 08, 2009

ID: 8 year old? aspie? arrest her!

Brimming with pride to see the home state make the national news on ABC. Here's one Idaho town's take-no-prisoners response to autism spectrum disorders - oh, wait a minute, strike that:

Parents Consider Legal Action After Autistic Girl, 8, Arrested at School - Evelyn Towry Was Cuffed, Led Away by Police After Scuffle Over School Party

The mother of an 8-year-old autistic girl who was arrested after a scuffle with her teachers said it was horrifying to watch her daughter be led away in handcuffs from her northern Idaho elementary school... Police in Bonner County, Idaho, charged the girl, Evelyn Towry, with battery...

Spring Towry said she got to the school... just in time to see 54-pound Evelyn - who was diagnosed at age 5 with Asperger's Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism - being walked to a police car with two officers at her side. "She started screaming 'Mommy, I don't want to go! What are batteries? What are batteries?'" Towry said. "She didn't even know what she was arrested for."

Towry, who lives in Ponderay, said Evelyn told her that she had been refused entry into a school Christmas party that had been delayed until after the holidays because of a string of snow days, because she refused to take off her beloved "cow costume" - a hoodie with cow ears and a tail.

Towry said Evelyn... told her she was put in a separate classroom away from the party, but when she tried to leave, the teachers told her to stay put. Evelyn did not listen, Towry said, and the adults physically restrained her...


Via I Speak Of Dreams.

Bonus link
: for those who need a diagram to see why this was wrong (this person perhaps), Asperger Square 8 has drawn one for you:

February 06, 2009

WA: Seattle 1919 - we shall be all

Today makes the ninetieth anniversary of the start of the Seattle General Strike. If you happen to be in Seattle Saturday (and you don't have a nine-year-old who would rather feed the seagulls at Ivar's), you could celebrate (or commiserate) with the Seattle Labor Chorus and others, from 1PM to 5PM at the Seattle Labor Temple, 2800 1st Ave. Brought to you by the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. It's free.

February 05, 2009

SC: "Sleezie Boy" is representing himself

From the Charleston Post and Courier:

Sensational drama unfolding in courtroom

Some tips for defending yourself against a troublesome murder rap: ...Never, ever, begin a sentence "(Let's) say I shot someone five times..."

February 04, 2009

Cute animal pictures: the highest and best use of the blawgosphere

As if to validate the point of the previously - linked post, here is an adorable goat in a holding cell (a Toggenburg, I believe):
Via West Seattle Blog by way of Slog.

I am an aggregator

Nothing to see here, move along.

P.S.: AmbImb introduced me to a term I should have known: tumblelog. Takes all kinds to make a blawgosphere.

February 02, 2009

MN: " 'How can you defend those people?' We are 'those people.' "

From In The Fray:

A day in the life of a public defender - Advocating for the indigent in rural Minnesota

Judge Richard Posner... once wrote, “[a] bare-bones system for the defense of indigent criminal defendants may be optimal.” How pleased he would have been watching me practice on that day...

"Reporters feed me and let me nap on their coats"

Equal time, from Bob the Cat in Olympia:
A cat's eye view of the statehouse ( Bob's blog via Ridenbaugh Press )

Bonus link: Neko Case - People Got A Lotta Nerve

February 01, 2009

Your MVP: Matilda the beagle

A satisfying Puppy Bowl V today: the dog I picked won Most Valuable Player (though I also liked the Catahoula Cur - sounds like what they'd call opposing counsel in Louisiana).

MX: "they can come for me at my office at any time"

Light a candle for the colleagues in Ciudad Juarez. From the Washington Post:

Defense Attorneys In Lawless Juarez Besieged on All Sides - 'This Is Nothing Like Before. I Don't Even Take Narco Cases. Not Anymore.'

The Mexican criminal defense attorney Salvador Urbina... no longer sleeps in the city where he practices law. It is far too dangerous. He now spends his nights across the border in a bland suburb of El Paso and commutes to the deadliest city in Mexico each morning. After he began receiving death threats, Urbina got his family out...

January 30, 2009

WA: Grant County - style p.d. work will cost you more than your bar license

Big news from the Spokesman-Review:

$3 million verdict for wrongly accused man

A federal jury in Spokane has awarded more than $3 million to Felipe G. Vargas who spent more than seven months in the Grant County jail, falsely accused of child molestation. The judgment was awarded against the former Grant County public defender, Thomas F. Earl, who provided “ineffective assistance of counsel” to Vargas...


Verdict rebuffs flat-fee defender contracts

A $3 million jury verdict in Spokane is sending a message to Washington counties, ending their practice of flat-fee contracts for public defenders, legal experts said Friday... Three days after (Felipe Vargas') arrest in November 2003, the alleged victim recanted. Police and prosecutors knew that but took no steps to free Vargas from jail. His public defender apparently was too busy with 500 other cases and didn’t adequately represent Vargas.

Grant County, also named defendant in Vargas’ 2006 civil rights suit, settled last month by paying him $250,000, based on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Moses Lake attorneys Garth Dano and George Ahrend filed the civil rights suit... “The importance of this case is it said, ‘Stop lying to the judges and each other, and don’t put your financial interests ahead of your clients,’” Dano said Friday.

John Strait, a legal ethic professor at Seattle University, testified as an expert. Flat-fee contracts, he said, “are all illegal and unethical for any attorney to enter into... “If there really are 17 counties left, and I doubt it, the lawyers who signed those contracts are subject to immediate discipline,” Strait said. “If you can identify any for me, I will file those bar complaints...”

January 28, 2009

Me and that train

From the public defender at Preaching to the Choir:

I want off this train

By the time a case gets to me, the train wreck has already happened...

This part of the job is like a scene in Housekeeping, watching the train slide off the railroad bridge into the lake.

Bonus link goes to Patty Larkin singing "Me and That Train."