May 31, 2006

"Take the p.d. - it's #%*$ free!"

Another public defender client courtesy of MySpace, but this time a satisfied customer.

Carnival of violence against lawyers

Somehow this site became the sixth most popular destination for the Google search "violence against attorneys". This isn't a good sign.

Much better and more to the point is the second most popular page, Forensic Psychiatry & Medicine's Ask the Expert - Violence Against Attorneys and Judges: Protecting Yourself Before and After a Threat by Harold J. Bursztajn, M.D. and James T. Hilliard, J.D. Go there now if you've ever had to face any of these questions:

What steps can I take to prevent a violent assault by a client?

What kinds of cases are considered high-risk?

What are some high-risk factors to look for in the litigant?

What are some high-risk situations that can occur in legal proceedings?

What should I do when I get a case involving a heightened risk of client violence?

Can I reduce the risk of violence by the way I approach clients and communicate with them?

On the main Criminal Justice page, you'll also find a link to many articles, including "On Guard: Law as a High-Risk Profession" (pdf file). Try as I might, I don't remember signing up for this when I was a young p.d.

Bonus links:

from the ABA, "When Lawyers Become Prey"

from the Utah bar, "An Increasingly Violent Profession"

from Simon Fraser University in B.C., "VAL: Violence against lawyers"

The war at home

I'm possibly going to have an interesting time being the on-call public defender this week.

From today's Olympian: Port protests escalate - 22 arrests made in demonstrations against military cargo ship.

Twenty-two people were arrested Tuesday in one of the most volatile confrontations yet between anti-war activists and police officers guarding a military cargo ship docked at the Port of Olympia. The confrontations resulted in the most arrests in a single day since the demonstrations began a week ago against the Iraq-bound military shipments leaving from the port...

OlyBlog has been on top of events at the port. For more pro-protest perspectives, see "Olympia Resists Militarization of Our Port" (for "Olympia" read "part of Olympia"). Plenty of photos at either site. You might also hear live updates from the masked kids on the front lines streaming at Oly's unlicensed pirate radio station, Free Radio Olympia, where last night I was informed that the people pulling on the fences were only trying nonviolently to get into the port so they could inspect the shipments.

Also this weekend, the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association will be in town having its annual conference at The Evergreen State College. Labor studies are reliably interesting. One especially animated panel discussion should be "'Global Wars and Local Ports: the Iraq War and the Port of Olympia,' Larry Mosqueda, member of the faculty at Evergreen, and members of ILWU Local 47." Animated, as Local 47, the Olympia local of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, seems to have come out against the protests:

Members of Operation Support Our Troops joined workers loading the USNS Pomeroy for a barbecue lunch Tuesday to show support for the shipment of equipment to Iraq... Local 47 paid for the lunch.

It's fascinating to watch these battles and cleavages play out among progressive labor, enlisted men and women, law enforcement, and the protesters. If I had to choose a spokesman who comes closest to voicing my feelings, I'd probably go with this OlyBlog commenter:

I will not say that I am for or against the war in Iraq. What I will say is that I shall soon find my boots on the desert sands of that far off place. I am a Medic. I joined the Army to heal... I heard about your protest today at the port and it angered me. Not because you were protesting, or what you were protesting, but because the only thing you succeeded in was giving me and my fellow soldiers a hard time and making us have less time with our families. We are operators not policy makers. We volunteered to do a job. That job is handed down to us by a civilian government according to the constitution. What I think about the war in Iraq is totally irrelevant. What anyone in this Stryker Brigade, even its commander thinks about it is irrelevant. We are soldiers and we go where the civilian leadership needs us. If you want this to stop, talk to them, not us. As I said, we are not policy makers... We are given a mission and we prosecute it to the best of our abilities. Don't hassle the soldiers, hassle Congress and the White House.

Updates: from KOMO, Daily Kos, By The Bayou, and Res Ipsa. Oh, and weighing in on the Port of Olympia activity, Michelle Malkin has come out strongly against "coddling" arrestees and for pepper spray in the face (no link here - you find it).

Here's another "pro" post, from My Left Wing, with a commenter wistfully asking us to "imagine what a coordinated longshoreman's strike in the port would do." What the commenter imagines is just the opposite of the Olympia union local's pro-shipments stance:

...(T)he International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) opposes the war with Iraq but supports the shipping of military supplies and the ongoing contract of the port with the military. These are livable wage jobs for their members in a small port... (T)he ILWU made it clear that they would continue to load the ships.

And so the historic rift between Labor and Left gets replayed.

It's quieter down at the harbor this early Wednesday evening - the Pomeroy is about to cast off.

Update 06/01/06: Ship leaves Olympia amid protesters' finale

May 29, 2006

Eat a peach

After "the sweetest public defender south of the Mason-Dixon line" had to pull down her blog apparently for office-related reasons, I was able to save a few more cached posts written by her. Here are a couple for posterity:

* Today I ran into my Cautionary Tale. She wasn't technically my client, but I was backup in court that day and my partner wasn't relating to her very well so it fell upon me to take care of things. I generally step in to take care of more emotional clients when my somewhat gruff male co-workers are having difficulties.

I call her my Cautionary Tale because she's a classic example of a good kid who really messed up her life with a couple bad choices. Now she's got a felony drug conviction because she got a ride from a couple of friends she shouldn't have had. Because of her, I tell all my friends not to let their druggie friends ride in their car.

She really changed the way I thought about my job, even though I hadn't been on it very long. She wanted to go ahead and plea because she knew there was enough evidence to convict her, and that technically she was holding the stuff at the time. She was worried about the amount of time she could get and wanted to keep it off her record. But when she stood up to enter her plea in front of the judge she got teary, and this judge (the same judge who chewed me out) wouldn't take the plea because of it.

Court for us who do it all the time is an exhausting process. And it becomes relatively routine. But even then, I have trouble with his actions. I don't think it's at all unusual or unexpected for a girl who's all of 19 to get a little upset about the consequences of her actions and the gravity of what she's doing standing there in front of him. His yelling at her about crying didn't help.

We had to stand back on the case and I sat with her for a long while. She told me her story, I let her talk and cry and get it out, and after lunch she stood up there and entered her plea and stayed calm...

Today I ran into her around town and she seemed happy. We talked and joked for a while. It took us a bit to recognize each other. But she's still having trouble finding work and I really hope things get better for her. I assured her that I had a lot of clients with worse records than hers (which is spotless except for this one thing) get good, well-paying jobs and to keep trying. I hope she does.

But seeing her reminded me that she's the first client who I won't forget. I see a lot of people, hundreds a year, but there will always be a few who stick with you and there's no getting around that.

* ...Today a girl was in on a case, she has a long, complicated history, but it's more her family situation that's troubling than her criminal past. At issue today was where to place her now. Hours were spent, arrangements were argued about. I talked to her a few times, sat with her for a while, and when I sat watching her in court I just wanted to hug her...

After all the details had been finalized, a placement was found, everyone was happy, and it seemed like we'd reached a good resolution. (Actually, this is what I like about Juvenile. You don't always have good options, true, but sometimes you can really get that Go-Team thing going.) At lunch, I went out with the Juvenile DA and some people with Juvenile Court. We saw this girl with the woman who was taking her to her new "home" and joked to each other that we should keep our cell phones on hand in case she tried to run. We came back from lunch to find out that she had, indeed, made a run for it. Last I heard she hadn't been found yet.

Once I found out, I was momentarily dumbfounded. And then I thought that these kids are more like adults than I give them credit for. And while I can talk to them differently, I have to keep that same kind of distrust and skepticism that I keep for clients. I want to believe them, but I'm never sure I can. You take everything with a few grains of salt. And if I think about it, I had a lot of motivation to lie as a teenager. So, you know, it makes sense...

Please God, don't ever let my kids end up in the criminal justice system. And please even more, don't let them end up in the juvenile justice system. But I might as well be here for the ones that do.

Carry on and hang in there, southern colleague; more than a few people are grateful that you're there.

Off-topic: NATS

For Memorial Day, I want to single out the 26,604 personnel who served in World War II in the Naval Air Transport Service, and one in particular (who's still with us): my dad, CDR Joseph G. Hansen, USNR (Ret.):

Familiarly known as NATS, it played a major role in the Pacific War. The cargoes it carried sent damaged ships and submaries back to sea... It supplied fighting units throughout the Pacific... and brought as much as 1,000 pints a day of life-giving plasma and whole blood... It evacuated casualties from the active fighting fronts... The importance of such service was only partly measurable in statistics; it also lay in the shortened convalescence and improved morale of each casualty...

Keep 'em flying.

May 27, 2006

Young p.d. colleague's blog goes dark

A young public defender just starting out has felt compelled to take down her blog. It's probably the right choice for her continued employment, but sad that she's lost an outlet for her hopes and fears, an outlet she might not have felt that she had in her office IRL.

I admired her thinking and linked to her blog for the last few months. The link and the blog are gone today, regrettably. Public Defender Stuff has done a public service in preserving excerpts from the diary of her professional growth.

ID: meth scene, meth son

From the Times-News, a compassionate yet unsentimental portrait of how methamphetamine is corroding life for one Twin Falls family:

Meth mom fights to take back her street - Son, accused of BLM burglary, sobers to reality of meth use

(Laurray Larsen) faces multiple problems, and each is getting worse...

But at least James Larsen, her 22-year-old son whom she had arrested to break his meth addiction, is not dead. The arrest was, after all, the last thing she thought she could do to save his life. On Friday morning, she visited him in jail...

"There ain't nothing to do but tell him it's going to be OK," she said. "But I don't think it's going to be OK."

James has been removed from the Twin Falls meth scene, but it skips along without him, particularly around the intersection of Eden and Third Avenue West. Larsen was once told if she can't handle the heat in a neighborhood increasingly plagued with drug-related crime, she should just get out. On Friday, she made it clear she is not ready to do that...

In jail, James' sobriety is bittersweet. As meth flushed from his veins, James drowned into an overwhelming fatigue, sleeping for the better part of his first week in jail. Then the numbness broke, his senses returned as he awakened into a cursed awareness of his reality.

"I'm stuck in the dark trying to find the light switch," James said, calling the Times-News from the jail. "I don't even know what's going on... I am more violent," he says weakly. "I just do whatever -- selling a little. After a while it was the only thing left to do, go and get high. I just didn't care anymore. If I had a gun in my hand that day (of the arrest) I would have shot a cop..."

Read it to decide: just more of that "completely overblown" meth myth media hype, or an honest view from a reporter talking with real people about their real problems?

May 25, 2006

Enough with the violence against court-appointed lawyers

On the same day - the 24th of May - a continent away from Thurston County, WA:

Boston Lawyer Attacked By Client In Court

From one blog:

Man Strangles Lawyer Defending Him For Murder

It’s one of those "who do you root for?" kind of stories.

Yeah, it's a real thigh-slapper, it is. Real funny.

From the site's comments:

At the risk of being seen as pro-lawyer (my son is one, and even he thinks most of them are parasitic scum), it seems this guy was actually trying to avoid representing this particular psychopath– an accused killer whose case he had unsuccessfully sought to drop. “I had moved to withdraw last week and that was denied.”

And from LiveJournal:

And in the "it is tough to be a defense attorney" corner of cyberspace:



Hard day on the planet...

WA: don't hit your public defender!

The AP has picked up yesterday's incident where my co-worker Larry Jefferson was attacked by his client Justin Jacobson in mid-trial. 35 separate listings so far, including The Guardian and Salon...

Here's a pretty decent item from KOMO (with video):

Defense Attorney Attacked By His Own Client In Court

The one man who's fighting for Jacobson; his one ally in the courtroom is the one he struck out at. "I think I'm rather shaken up," Jefferson said. "It's not something you're expecting when you're working and trying to do the best you can to present the case and then you're struck..."

And here's the twist: Jacobson is already on trial for assaulting two state corrections officers while in prison. In this case, judge Paula Casey was left with no choice but to declare a mistrial because of what the jury just witnessed. "Obviously, they would be more apt to believe the state's case that he assaulted someone after they've witnessed he'd assaulted someone..."

Larry's well, though a bit sore.

The all-important p.d. ID

Never forget the value of an official public defender badge:

(It) can be used to get into the jail (and, more importantly, OUT again)

Or the benefits of a p.d. summer internship:

(You) meet lots of interesting people. Some of them are sane.

Enjoy your experience, all you law student interns.

May 24, 2006

A nod to Bob

Happy birthday, wise legal scholar.

Well, six white horses that you did promise
Were fin'lly delivered down to the penitentiary
But to live outside the law, you must be honest
I know you always say that you agree
But where are you tonight, sweet Marie?

- from Absolutely Sweet Marie by Bob Dylan

"...there's one line that I always refer to when I teach sentencing guidelines. ' "What time is it?" said the judge to Joey when they met. "Five to ten," said Joey. The judge says, "That's exactly what you get." ' There you have it—the notion of arbitrariness in sentencing. It's all there."

- from Ladder of the Law: Another Side of Bob Dylan by Nick Paumgarten.

ID: "like a real-life Matlock"

Meet Doug Nelson, an Idaho criminal defense hero:

Move over Matlock - Hailey attorney clears woman of murder charge

Hailey attorney Doug Nelson used his expertise in child head injury cases to clear a woman that he proved was wrongly accused of killing an 11-week-old baby in Jerome last summer.

Like a real-life Matlock, Nelson uncovered forensic evidence that left prosecutors little choice but to drop a first-degree murder charge against Yeimi Lira-Juarez...

"Yeimi should have never been charged," Nelson said. "I think the state should have slowed down and waited for all the evidence to come in..."

WA: another p.d. physically assaulted

My co-worker Larry is well-loved by everyone in the office and the courthouse. Almost everyone. From KIRO TV:

Attorney Attacked By Client In Courtroom

Larry's client, "who has a history of violence," chopped him in the throat this morning during jury selection, creating a courtroom full of eyewitnesses to the crime. Client bought himself a new trial and tons of new bad karma. Larry got a trip to the emergency room, but they say he's going to be okay. Get well soon.

Update from the Olympian:

Assault defendant attacks his public defender in Thurston County court

As a public defender, Larry Jefferson represents some of society’s most dangerous criminals. Many blame their attorney when they end up in jail.

But Jefferson never had one take a swing at him. Not until Wednesday, when a 21-year-old man on trial for custodial assault suddenly backhanded him in the throat...

Suspect slugs his attorney in court

From the Seattle Times:

Assault defendant socks lawyer during jury selection

May 23, 2006

ID: adios, taquito

Never let it be said that voters in my home state can be bought off with free tacos.

Now, will the loser keep his campaign promise to pay for all those tacos?

My campaign is offering all Idaho citizens voting in the upcoming Primary Election a certificate for one free taco, upon proof that they voted in the Primary Election. The best proof would be a digital picture of their ballot from within the voting booth taken via a cell telephone digital camera...

And now who will pick up on his bold plan to do away with secret ballots?

ID: "an adept manipulator"

Cry anemia, get a new p.d. From the Sandpoint Bee:

Judge assigns new attorney for Gillispie - A Bonner County man is getting new legal counsel after being sentenced to 15-25 years in prison for sexually assaulting a Sandpoint woman and later burglarizing a local doctor's home

Ronald Anthony Gillispie claims chief public defender Hugh Nisbet put up an anemic defense and caused him to enter into a dubious plea agreement with the state. Gillispie also accused Nisbet of being dishonest and violating the attorney/client right to confidential communication...

Nisbet argued there was no showing that he has been providing ineffective counsel to Gillispie. Verby agreed, but said Gillispie should be assigned new counsel because of the obvious breakdown in the client/attorney relationship.

I met Hugh Nisbet once, and I don't think "anemic" would be the word to describe him or his style of defending; as I recollect, he shook my hand and about broke a few of my bones.

WA: Seattle drug war comix

From Reason magazine, via Seattlest, cartoonist Peter Bagge takes a field trip -

The Beast That Will Not Die - Trying to Stop America's Seemingly Unstoppable "War on Drugs" -

- including this visit to Drug Court:

While it may beat going to jail, opting for this program basically means inviting the state to crawl up your ass and live there for two whole years. It's humiliating!

... Personally I find the whole thing nauseatingly paternalistic. Our courts now resemble daytime talk shows!
(hyperbole in original)

More Peter Bagge cartoons from Reason here.

May 22, 2006

Is Napoleon Dynamite registered to vote?

My fellow Idahoans:

In tomorrow's Republican primary for governor, you have a choice. "Vote for Pedro" isn't one of them.

You can choose a man who's equally at home opposing the Patriot Act or posing in a tight blue jeans contest.

Or you can choose a man who will give each voter one free taco.

(to non-Idahoans, I give you my word I am not making this up.)

Who you calling flyspeck?

From a peculiar people, an odd flyspeck of a case:

Today's U.S. Supreme Court Brigham City v. Stuart, No. 05-502 (S. Ct. May 22, 2006) (pdf file), as seen by

- The State of the Beehive

- Sentencing Law and Policy

- Crim Law ("The Witnessing a Fight Exception to the 4th Amendment")

Brigham City, Utah is lovely this time of year... but remember, when it comes to deputies on the front porch, "it would serve no purpose to require them to stand dumbly at the door awaiting a response while those within brawled on, oblivious to their presence." (oh, if I only had a nickel for every time I've said that!)

Bonus link goes to Brigham City - The Movie.

May 21, 2006

KS: criminal defense practice tip

Bad: while practicing law, testing positive for cocaine.

Extremely bad: while practicing law, testing positive for cocaine in the middle of your client's murder trial.


Hard enough running a state's public defender office when you're physically there; imagine how it must be when you're in Baghdad. By way of the Columbia Missourian, after first passing through Public Defender Stuff:

Public defender chief on duty in Iraq - He awaits word on a $2 million increase in funding for the agency from the state.

May 20, 2006

Armed forces day

Today was Armed Forces Day. Joe and I took a drive over to the open house at our neighborhood military installation to check out the Strykers and Humvees, then made it back in time for a few hours of the Lacey Spring Fun Fair. Joe climbed aboard an old Huey, waiting in line by a grey-haired counterculture-looking guy wearing a boonie hat and a dignified, far-away expression.

One of the things I hadn't been aware of before I moved here was the influence of the military on the place. My new town has a reputation as Lotus Land for hippies and bureaucrats. It's a partly true stereotype, but one which airbrushes out hundreds of local people directly connected to Fort Lewis. A few of them live on my street, and a couple are in my kid's class. Rarely, but often enough to notice, others wind up in Juvy as a new client or as a concerned parent with the other parent deployed. They also serve who only stand and wait.

May 18, 2006

WA: distant early warning

Praise the Lord for Public Defender Investigator:


Sometime. Maybe in 2006.

WA: a rough measure of justice

In the South Sound, a blog recounts how a man has extracted himself from "kangaroo court," (District Court, where adult misdemeanors are heard), by way of an Alford plea.

The only good thing to say is that he's out of jail now. Beyond that, nobody's satisfied. The case had nothing to do with me, yet I made the mistake of getting involved. Naturally, I haven't gone unpunished.

May 17, 2006

WA: not so bad boys, bad boys

As much attention as we criminal defense people have paid to goings-on in Grant County, things are comparatively low-key in the northern-most corner of the county (including a sliver of Douglas County), by the Grand Coulee Dam. Here's a recent crime report from the Star of Grand Coulee:

Coulee Cops

- A 19-year-old man, who had been arrested in Grand Coulee a week earlier for not having a driver's license, was arrested in Coulee Dam on the same charge. He told officers that he had been driving a lot since his first arrest. He was charged, released and his vehicle impounded...

- Police tried to stop a car that had a faulty brake light but had to follow it all the way down the Coulee Dam hill and across the bridge before it pulled over. As the officer approached the vehicle another car pulled into the area and a woman got out and yelled "my daughter didn't do anything to get pulled over." Police advised the woman to get back in her car, and she left the scene. The officer recognized the driver..., gave her a verbal warning on the brake light, and cited her for the insurance and registration violations. She refused to sign the ticket... At that time the other woman re-appeared, shouting "discrimination and harassment" at passing cars. The subject finally signed the infraction and she was released...

- Police responded to a complaint that two dogs, one a pit bull, were trying to get into a woman's yard on Grand Coulee Ave. She told police that the dogs bared their teeth and appeared dangerous. When police responded they found the two dogs wandering loose and both seemed to be friendly...

- A woman was stopped for going 35 mph in a 20 mph zone and explained that she was in a hurry to get to work. She was issued a ticket and advised to stop at the stop sign next time. She replied, "well slap my hand this morning." Then she said, "Thank you and have a good morning..."

FL: "not much... I don't already know"

The endless problem of big caseloads getting in the way of maintaining individual attorney-client relations, from Florida Today:

Cliatt denied a new attorney

For the second time this year, Judge Tonya Rainwater denied child molestation suspect Daniel Cliatt's motion to dismiss his public defender -- unless he wants to hire his own attorney...

... Cliatt... told Rainwater on Tuesday that he has spoken to his court-appointed public defender only four or five times in the past year. "It's not effective for my case, and I'm not taking part in my defense," he said. "I have asked him to file several motions and they haven't been filed yet. I haven't been kept abreast of anything."

Public Defender Michael Dwyer defended his work on the case but admitted he is besieged by cases. "My client is correct in that I have seen him only four or five times in the past year, but there is not much he can lend to his case that I don't already know," he said. "It's not lack of diligence or lack of vigilance on my part. I've had nine trials in the past three and a half months..."

Dwyer added that attorneys in his office are not clamoring to represent Cliatt. "Not many people are willing to take on a quick case in which there's 1,200 years in the balance for my client," he said...

May 16, 2006

OH: cost-cutting, cutting defense

From the Salem News:

Defender quits, raps fund cuts

The Columbiana County Commissioners fell short on funding for all the wheels of justice, not just the spoke representing public defense attorneys.

Lawrence Stacey II, one of three attorneys who recently tendered their resignations from the Criminal Defense Company, said the reduction in funds would cost him about $8,000 in pay this year, questioning whether the commissioners would be willing to take an $8,000 pay cut...

The public defender's office used to be a department with appropriations through the general fund, but was shut down several years ago. As an alternative to attorneys submitting their own hourly rate bills for public defense work, which proved costly, a company of attorneys was formed as a cheaper alternative...

How's that Criminal Defense Company working out for all of you?

Legos building character at juvy

Click to read and listen to this radio documentary from Soundprint -
"Building Blocks":

Two years ago at Long Creek juvenile detention center in Maine, one MIT professor revolutionized the existing school system. He instituted a learning-by-doing program where young offenders spend their day using Legos to build programmable robots - clocks, vehicles and moving fantasy figures. Teens photograph their creations and write diaries proudly chronicling their progress...

Via The Imbroglio. Brought to you by Lego Mindstorms.

May 15, 2006

"Indefensible": a buyer's guide

So you've heard all about this new book about defenders called "Indefensible", and based on the excellent reviews it's getting, you've decided to make the purchase.

Good for you! But when you get to the store, what's this? Two "Indefensibles"? How do you know which "Indefensible" to buy? Here's a side-by-side comparison:

Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice

Defenders: Indefensible

"This tragicomic exposé is a roller-coaster ride through the world of justice in the South Bronx... By a combination of skill and stealth, Feige negotiates the best deal he can get for his clients..."

"Wong possessed by Nightmare! Dormammu and Umar in unholy alliance! The Hulk and the Sub-Mariner at each other's throats! The Silver Surfer... uh... surfing. Can Doctor Strange reunite the Defenders and save "Reality As We Know It? Only the Ancient One knows for sure!" ⇒

"A young lawyer's outrageous and heartbreaking long day's journey into night court. If M*A*S*H took place in the Bronx instead of Korea and was about lawyers and judges, not doctors and officers, it would look a lot like INDEFENSIBLE..."

"Bonding and family atmosphere are usually the norm for superhero teams – even when they bicker or argue they normally make up by the end. The Defenders really isn’t like that here, with a disparate group of heroes, many of whom don’t get on and have no problem about showing that..."

"Feige, a Court TV talking head and former Trial Chief of the Bronx Defenders, knows his way around that New York borough's notorious criminal courthouse. There he represented the frequently handcuffed, never cuff-linked."

"The Defenders are the group that if they seem like they don't like one another, they don't! The Defenders hate one another. They've been thrown together and despise it. There's no love lost between these guys." ⇒

Okay, it's still not exactly clear which is which; the "Indefensible" on the left is written by our colleague David Feige, and it's the real deal. However, its one shortcoming, compared to the "Indefensible" on the right, is that Feige (⇐) does not reach out to the cross-over market by working in a cameo for noted attorney She-Hulk (⇒) .

May 13, 2006

I ♥ Qwest

Thank you, Qwest.

Maybe you'll able to switch over to my phone company.

Here's where to contact them directly.

NE: "quality representation and controlling costs"

Via PD Stuff's post, "Nebraska County Asks: Which Is Better, PD Or Court-Appointed?":

Public defenders discuss life in the office - Several Nebraska counties - including Platte and Saunders - have elected public defender's offices to provide services for criminal suspects who can't afford an attorney

As Saunders County's public defender, Tom Kline of Wahoo has not had a case go to trial in the past five years...

... he said with pride.

WA: give the boy a gun

From the Olympian:

Man charged for giving teen gun

A Yelm man was charged Friday for allegedly giving a handgun to a teenager that mortally wounded another teen...

Terry A. Howick... told investigators he gave the teen the gun for protection, court documents say...

May 12, 2006

WA: mystifies me

From the King County Journal:

Motive often remains a mystery when kids murder their parents

His mother bought him the rifle because he was a history buff and it looked like a weapon used in the Vietnam War. She wanted to encourage his interest in history, she said.

One evening in January, the 16-year-old Ravensdale boy emerged from his bedroom with tears in his eyes, leveled the military-style SKS carbine at his father and pulled the trigger.

He told police he thought his dad was going to hurt his mother.

Since that still-unexplained shooting, prosecutors here encountered another case of what experts call parricide, the act of a child taking the life of their parent or guardian...

It's not just the kids whose behavior is puzzling...

How unappealing reports on a place where some of the traditional criminal defense lawyer personality flaws - unbridled ego, misplaced idealism, or both - can get you and your client in deep trouble fast: the U.S. Supreme Court.

Will Defense Lawyers Accept Help on High Court Criminal Cases?

The article cites unreal Seattle appellate hero Jeffrey Fisher, who won both Blakely and Crawford.

Then there's Michael Studebaker of Ogden, Utah, four years out of law school, one prior appellate argument in state court...

Charley at The State of the Beehive carried some of the press accounts of how well his Supreme Court advocacy went.

Hey, perhaps they'd consider issuing an unpublished opinion.

: MyShingle sticks up for the little guy (the lawyer, not necessarily the client). She's guessing that the outcome would be the same whether it was a Michael Studebaker or a Jeffrey Fisher handling the appeal.

I'm guessing she's probably wrong, but then, what better venue than the U.S. Supreme Court, and what better time than an appeal, the outcome of which all your criminal defense clients and colleagues nationwide will have to swallow, to rehash the fights that really matter, such as small firms vs. BigLaw, or for that matter, low-level private or p.d. practitioners vs. NACDL big dogs?

Ask Jeffrey Fisher whether "(i)t has nothing to do with protecting criminal defendants." If you ask me, I'd say criminal defendants all over were pretty well protected by Fisher's expertise. Link via Crime and Federalism.

May 11, 2006

ID: kill a grizzly bear cub, go to jail

Thanks to fellow Idahoan The Hot Springs Guy, now I have another crime to add to the short list of those I'd be utterly hard-pressed to defend:

Grizzly Killers Sentenced: Justice for 346 and Cub

Local news stories from this past April are here and here.

Killing Idaho’s only radio-collared grizzly bear, then attempting to cover up the crime by destroying the radio collar and killing her yearling cub the next day... very sporting. With two months to serve for one of my cracker countrymen, three months for the other, Brother Hot Springs is right: they got off easy.

ID: work crew rather than jail

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

Two days in jail or a walk in the park

When Magistrate Judge Randy Stoker asks a defendant to choose between working two days or spending two days in jail, the pause is short.

"I have never had anybody opt for jail," he said...

Judge Stoker is a former criminal defense lawyer.

May 10, 2006

WA: hung jury for Cowboy Mike

From the Yakima Herald-Republic,

Deadlocked jury forces 'Cowboy Mike' mistrial

In what may have been his greatest escape to date, "Cowboy Mike" (Braae) wriggled out of a conviction Tuesday when the Yakima County Superior Court jury, after three grueling days of deliberations, deadlocked 11-1 in favor of a guilty verdict...

Braae's attorney, Rick Smith, said he thinks it would be wise to send Braae to Olympia, where Thurston County prosecutors have been building a murder case there for several years...

Update 05/11/06: thus has it come to pass -

Michael “Cowboy Mike” Braae pleaded not guilty this afternoon in Thurston County Superior Court to charges of first-degree murder and rape.

NY: "clients as people, not just criminal defendants"

From Changing the Court - "A chronicle of how a group of planners and practitioners are attempting to change the Bronx court system's approach to low-level criminal offending.":

Working with the Defense Bar

As Aaron (Mysliewiec, an attorney at Bronx Defenders) said, describing his office's approach, "I can’t guarantee an outcome, but I can guarantee that my client has a lawyer who will listen".

Overall, a new blog of interest to us public defender types.

But then you may want to follow the good news of community solutions with Indefensible's David Feige's grain of salt.

May 09, 2006

AZ: pay daze, parity parody

Public Defender Stuff carried this item out of Tucson:

County seeks big raise to slow lawyer exodus

Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall and the heads of the county's two indigent-defense offices are so desperate to stop their lawyers from quitting that they've asked the county for a 20 percent raise for all their attorneys.

So far this fiscal year, LaWall's office has seen a 17 percent turnover rate among her attorneys, and Bob Hooker, the head of the Pima County Public Defender's Office, has seen a 22 percent turnover rate. Isabel Garcia, the head of the Legal Defender's Office, says several of her attorneys are openly seeking new jobs.

A 20 percent raise would cost the county between $2.2 million and $2.4 million...

Also in the same paper on the same day:

Defense attorneys' suit dismissed -
Judge agrees with county in dispute over unequal pay

A federal judge has dismissed a three-year-old lawsuit against Pima County filed by 45 former and current county-paid defense attorneys who claimed they were being paid far less than prosecutors. The lawyers argued that by paying them less than their prosecutorial counterparts, Pima County breached their contract, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and the rights of their clients... In their initial claim against the county, the attorneys were seeking $9.5 million in damages and back pay.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Charles Pyle sided with the county, dismissing the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be filed again. Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and Rick Brown, one of the attorneys who represented the county, said they were pleased with the judge's decision. "We all have better things to do," Huckelberry said...

(T)he county argued that prosecutors and defense attorneys are not "similarly situated." The judge agreed. Pyle noted the county's attorneys argued that prosecutors and defense attorneys not only do different work, but the county has a "legitimate interest in favoring the public's interest in vigorously prosecuting crime over the county's duty to provide indigent criminal defense, and that paying prosecutors more than public defenders is rationally related to that interest."

"Although the argument is an uncomfortable one," Pyle concluded, it is a rational one.

Poor criminal defendants weren't entitled to court-appointed attorneys prior to 1963, and even now they are entitled to get only "reasonably effective" representation, Pyle said. As a result, government entities "could legitimately conclude that its law enforcement obligations are of a greater priority than its obligations to provide 'effective' assistance of counsel to indigent public defendants..."

Pima County Public Defender Bob Hooker, who was appointed to his position after the lawsuit was filed, said he hopes the county is ready to move on to other things now. "I think a lot of circumstances that gave rise to these attorneys feeling the need to file a lawsuit no longer exist. If they do, then I'm not doing my job," Hooker said.

I love the quotation marks around "effective," and that's all I'm going to say about that (it's not wise to curse, particularly at judges).

Bargain-basement justice

In Ken Lammers' commonwealth, fees for court-appointed private attorneys representing indigent clients "cap at $428 for a felony which maxes at less than 20 years and $1,186 if the punishment maxes at between 21 years and life"

(if there is a preliminary hearing the attorney will also get $112 for that).

Now you might think that this

statutory compensation scheme causes a conflict of interest because it creates a financial disincentive for a lawyer to effectively represent his or her client.

His local court of appeals disagrees. As happens not so infrequently, Mr. Lammers has the more persuasive argument.

May 08, 2006

MA: both sides now

From the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

Jury duty an eye-opener for lawyer - Court system gains new respect

Somehow, his fellow jurors figured out on their own that John J. Roemer was a lawyer. Maybe it was the fact that the court personnel they encountered all seemed to know him, some even addressing him by his first name...

Mr. Roemer, a public defender in the Worcester office of the state Committee for Public Counsel Services for the last 20 years, said he walked away with a fresh perspective on the time-honored system of trial by jury...

Never before... had he been given the opportunity to sit as a juror... “I really wanted to learn what goes on in the jury room and this was the best training seminar I ever attended,” Mr. Roemer said.

He plans to share his observations with young public defenders in a training manual titled “Both Sides Now: What An Indigent Defense Lawyer Learned Upon Becoming a Gentleman of the Jury.”

MO: state's chief p.d. Baghdad-bound

Director of Missouri's State Public Defender Agency is Headed to Iraq

J. Marty Robinson, the Director of Missouri’s State Public Defender System, is being deployed to Iraq. In addition to his duties as Missouri’s top Public Defender, Robinson is also a colonel in Missouri’s National Guard and serves as Missouri’s State Judge Advocate. Once deployed, Robinson will be attached to the 43rd Military Police Brigade in Baghdad as their Command Judge Advocate. The 43rd is responsible for theatre detention operations in Iraq. As the Command JAG, Robinson will be the senior advisor to the commander on legal issues concerning detainees...

Robinson’s departure comes at a difficult time for the agency he oversees. An independent study commissioned by the Missouri Bar concluded that Missouri’s public defender system is "on the verge of collapse" due to case overload and skyrocketing turnover rates in its attorney staff...

Cathy R. Kelly, the system’s Deputy Director for Training and Communications, will serve as Acting Director for the agency until Col. Robinson’s return...

May 06, 2006

MySpace, your space, all our space

I'm a little intrigued by MySpace, and the assumptions of people who post to it. I don't know if it's advertised as a place where only your friends can read your posts. The mood seems to be, see, this secret is just between us, no one else can read our thoughts.

Friendly reminder here: thanks to search engines such as Technorati and IceRocket, it just isn't so - we all can see your stuff.

Not long ago, a prosecutor showed me print-outs from the My Space blog of one of my clients. The many pictures of my client making gang signs and hanging with his co-defendants were just a little bit corrosive to our previous theory of the defense.

Then there's this job-seeker:

... i am quitting smoking the good herb...

...i really want this new job at the public defenders office, and the only way to ensure i pass the piss test is to just quit smoking...

...i am positive i will start smoking again as soon as i get this job...

No matter where you stand on legalizing marijuana use, that's the sort of integrity we want in our p.d. co-workers, don't you think? I managed to find this post, and I'm not even one of those public defender investigators.

Sorry, Pisces, that you'll have to take a month off from the gentle herb; I know you haven't gone more than a few days without cannabis in the past seven years. But hey, good luck hiding this from the people doing the hiring. Surely the p.d.s in Indianapolis, Indiana aren't as clever as you, and won't know how to use the Internets.

Update: A.L., take the advice from your friend's comment:

...if you REALLY want this job--it might be best to scrub this and other similar posts from your account immediately... new trend of some employers includes googling potential employees and looking for my space profiles etc...

New trend? I was doing it back when I was a hiring guy, and that was '98 to '04. It wasn't all bad news from Google about my applicants, of course, and some of it could intrigue me enough to tip the decision in a particular applicant's favor.

On the other hand, inadvertently disclosing seven years of chronic doobage might just tip the decision the opposite way, even for the coolest p.d. office.

Update: Keep scrubbing!

...the marion country public defender's office is hiring...
...does anyone know a good detox drink?

NV: public defender = lowest bidder?

The Nye County commissioners are looking for "competitive proposals." From the Pahrump Valley Times:

Lawyers compete for public defender deal

Pahrump attorney Carl Joerger made a pitch for the Nye County public defender contact currently held by attorney Jason Earnest...

Commissioners will have to advertise for qualified applicants quickly as Earnest's contract expires June 30. The current three-year contract for Earnest and three attorneys is $420,000 per year. Earnest is seeking to sign a three- to five-year public defender contract through June 30, 2009...

Earnest told commissioners... (h)is team includes Harry Kuehn... and Tom Gibson... Both Kuehn and Gibson are certified to handle capital murder cases, Earnest said, which could be handy as he expects more violent offenders with a growth in murders and methamphetamine use. Earnest said the caseload for the Pahrump Justice Court increased from 532 cases in all of 2003 to 810 cases in just the first four months of 2006...

Joerger submitted an offer for $240,000 for three attorneys.

Such a deal!

Some background: Nye County's population has ranged from approximately 38,000 to 47,000 in the first years of this decade. The current private attorney contractor there has charged Nye County $420,000 per year for himself and three other attorneys. In that same period, I managed a public defender office as a department of county government in a county of 66,000 people. My budget averaged approximately $465,000 per year for me and five, later six, attorneys. Just saying.

Low pay, happy lawyer

You know what's fantastic about putting up your own criminal defense blog? Do it long enough, and someone you admire as much as Ray Ward sends you e-mail! And not just e-mail, he sends you material and links!

From the proprietor of Minor Wisdom:

Skelly, I think this story is on your beat.

Ambrogi's headline is "Low pay, big cases, happy lawyer."

He links to a story on the NY Times that begins:

"THERE are many kinds of lawyers. Some defend the vilified, like mobsters and disgraced congressmen. In return, the lawyers can win money and fame.

But others defend the forgotten — tenants, busboys, people at the wrong end of a police truncheon — and are themselves forgotten..."

The article is about Ray Brescia, director of the community development project at the Urban Justice Center in Manhattan:

It is rewarding work, he says, for a "behind-the-scenes guy."

(In return, let me send you back to Minor Wisdom to read this post: "Depression and the Connecticut bar." Mr. Ward owns this topic among the blawgs, and his frequent posts on it are a source of personal help to me. Thank you, counselor.)

May 05, 2006

A fair question

From Sixth Circuit Blog:

Is Anyone Really Listening?

Do judges really listen to defense lawyers and give deference to their opinions, particularly where the subject matter relates to the defense lawyer’s opinion as an officer of the court?

...(O)ne is left with the distinct feeling that a defense attorney’s opinion is important when it happens to fit within the court’s agenda in deciding the case, but that it otherwise may be completely disregarded. Or maybe I read too much into this, and should simply remind myself of the important, unwritten, long-standing principle of jurisprudence: The law is always construed against the obviously guilty defendant.

(Via Ohio Death Penalty Information)

Here they come to save the day

New to the blogroll - a site from AV-rated Marks & Katz, LLC, with a title to warm the heart of any public defender:


Go pay them some arbitrary greetings.

May 04, 2006

ID: look for the good and praise it

Calvin Campbell was my colleague back in Idaho. He is a good man:

Attempted murder charge dropped against Hagerman woman

Charges have been dropped against a Hagerman woman arrested in the attempted murder of an elderly man in her care. "She's a free woman," said Gina Mulder, spokeswoman for the Gooding County prosecutor's office about Kathleen Marie Allen, 49...

"It was a perfect storm," said Gooding County Prosecuting Attorney Calvin H. Campbell. "Her stress level was huge, she hadn't been getting any sleep ... She was so out of touch with reality that the intent to ask somebody to kill somebody wasn't there."

Campbell said that after examining the defendant, his mental health expert determined she was too mentally ill at the time of the alleged crime to be held liable for it... Campbell said that in the interest of justice, the charges against Allen would be dismissed. "I have an obligation," he said, "if I don't believe I have enough evidence for the charge."

Now that the case is closed and she has been released with no further charges pending, Campbell said he doubts she is a risk to the public. "It was a combination of unique circumstances," he said. "I don't think it will happen again."

South-central Idaho is blessed with more than its share of honorable prosecutors. Calvin is one of them.

MT: kleine Welt

I'd been following the story of the Montana Sedition Project long before I discovered that I knew someone with a personal, family connection.

From the University of Montana:

J-School, Law School join forces for justice

The best success story thus far has been finding Billings attorney Steve Milch, the great-grandson of Joe Milch, one of the convicted. Coincidentally, Milch works at a different branch of the same law firm that employs Jason Loble in Helena. Loble is the great-grandson of the Lewis and Clark county attorney who prosecuted Milch’s great-grandfather and great-great uncle, John Milch. The Billings Gazette ran an article about this twist of fate...

From the NY Times:

Pardons Granted 88 Years After Crimes of Sedition

When Steve Milch found out recently that his great-grandfather, an immigrant from Bavaria, had been convicted of sedition in Montana during World War I, he was taken aback. It was something no one in the family had ever talked about...

But the silence — and for some families, the shame — has ended... Gov. Brian Schweitzer... posthumously pardon(ed) 75 men and three women...

Mr. Milch said the official acknowledgment, even after so many years, offered comfort and closure to the families.

"The whole Milch clan is appreciative of making things right," he said...

Mr. Milch's great-grandfather, John Milch, was turned in by an undercover agent named Eberhard Von Waldru... Mr. Von Waldru went into a German beer hall and drew out people's feelings on the war. His testimony was used against Mr. Milch; his brother, Joseph; and six other men. All were convicted, and four went to prison.

John Milch was sentenced to three to six years, but the law had expired by the time he was to begin serving his term. Joseph was fined $1,800.

Steve Milch said that although his family was not aware of the arrest, they did know about the anti-German sentiment of the time.

"There was a story that a mob of people was going around asking Germans to kiss the flag," Mr. Milch said. "My great-grandfather told them he didn't kiss anybody's flag, whether it was American or German."

Mr. Milch also had another surprise in store. He discovered that the great-grandfather of another lawyer in his firm was the Helena prosecutor who hired Mr. Von Waldru. "His great-grandfather prosecuted my great-grandfather," Mr. Milch said...

Steve Milch was in my law school class at U of I. The past isn't dead, it isn't even past.

MT: historic justice

Montana's governor has issued nearly 80 posthumous pardons to residents convicted of sedition during World War One.

From Great Falls: WWI sedition erased for 78

Wednesday, Gov. Brian Schweitzer — whose grandparents were German-speaking Russian homesteaders — issued the posthumous pardons, saying it was one of the best ways he knew to emphasize the importance of free speech.

"The Bill of Rights is not a menu. You don't order a la carte. You buy the whole meal," he told a gathering of family members of the accused.

From Missoula: Righting old wrongs

“In my box of dreams I guess I hoped that maybe someday these people could be exonerated.”

May 03, 2006

WA: 13 years for bank-robbing witch

In Thurston County:

Female bank robber sentenced to prison

Vanessa D. Molina’s most notorious robbery was on Halloween, when she donned a witch’s hat and cape and used a threatening note to rob a Lacey bank...

I pass this along mainly for this comment:


It's off to jail for you!

May 02, 2006

Public defender heritage

It didn't all start with Gideon, you know. Via Capital Defense Weekly:

Babcock, Barbara Allen, "Inventing the Public Defender", American Criminal Law Review, October 2006

Clara Foltz, one of the first women lawyers in the United States, was also the first to propose a public defender... As actually enacted in the Progressive Era twenty years after Foltz first proposed it, the public defender was less concerned with individual advocacy than with more generalized fair process. The history of the public defender reveals the tension between the models of zealous advocate and responsible public official, a tension both present at the creation and perhaps inherent in the office itself.

Bonus quote:

Without equal access to the law, the system not only robs the poor of their only protection, but it places in the hands of their oppressors the most powerful and ruthless weapon ever invented.

- Reginald Heber Smith — Justice and the Poor, 1919

See also Jerold Auerbach, Unequal Justice : Lawyers and Social Change in Modern America (New York: Oxford, 1976)

CA: want a tough stain out? P.D. it out!

From Legal Pad - the blog of

S.F.’s PD Lauded for Stain-Remover Program

A San Francisco program that helps some people erase blemishes like past arrests or convictions from their records was recognized as a standout last week...

It's a floor wax! It's a dessert topping! It's a floor wax and a dessert topping!

May 01, 2006

WA: "the difficult is not the impossible"

From the Olympian:

Off the streets, on to recovery - One couple’s journey out of homelessness

They sold their food stamps and cashed their disability checks to pay for drugs. They performed favors for others to get free methamphetamine and marijuana.

For four years, Mike and Julie Skoczen lived on the streets of downtown. Their home was a faded Ford Taurus, packed to the windows with everything they owned...

The turning point came last winter when Mike landed in jail. The couple had grown weary of living day to day in a car, of the constant bickering, of wondering when the police would rap on their car window next...

This is the story of a couple’s descent into drugs and a life on the streets. But it also is the story of their struggle to pull themselves out of addiction and out of homelessness...

TN: piping hot turnover

Been there. From the Shelbyville Times-Gazette:

Public Defenders office loses two attorneys

Two of the five public defenders here and three adjoining counties will be newly-hired attorneys this spring as an experienced lawyer has retired and the newest at that office got married and is making a new home in Nashville.

Faced with the prospect of losing 40 percent of the lawyers in her office, Public Defender Donna Hargrove suddenly became a one-woman human resources director looking for attorneys to fill open positions at an overworked office.

Such a significant percent change in the number of public defenders is important to the general public because it means fewer lawyers would be available to represent indigents...

The mathematical logic behind that last sentence is unassailable.

Not without immigrants

I wasn't going to stay away from work today. If law enforcement and detention weren't going to take a break for "A Day Without An Immigrant," then neither was I.

However, I did want to send greetings of the day by linking to my neighbor, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed, Republican good guy, and his web page featuring the Pledge of Allegiance in English, Spanish, German, and French. (If somebody could send me the version in Bosnian / Croatian / Serbian, I'd be much obliged.)

Thanks for the link to Lance Mannion, who says of my adopted state, "Out there, America exists in any language and liberty and justice are para todos."

UZ to CEELI: c-ya

Uzbekistan's increasingly closed society is now off-limits to the American Bar Association's Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative (CEELI). Those of us daydreaming about being a criminal law liaison in Tashkent will have to pick a different destination.

UZBEKISTAN: Crackdown on international organisations continues

Tashkent court bans U.S. lawyers' NGO in Uzbekistan

News tip courtesy of JURIST.