July 31, 2009


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 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 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 01, 2009

"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...