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