June 30, 2006

BC: how disarming

If you're a resident of British California, remember:

you have just a few hours of gun amnesty left to get rid of any of those unregistered handguns, rifles, or rocket launchers you might have lying around the house.

WA: couch provocation

Concerning this east King County headline,

"Man charged with murder after fight about sofa urination led to stabbing"

I blame my public defender black humor for thinking, "that couch really tied the room together."

June 29, 2006

WA: front page kudos for departing p.d.

From the Tacoma News Tribune (site may require registration):

It’s ‘the end of an era’ as defender retires - Attorney Jack Hill made a long career out of representing Pierce County’s indigent

For more than 30 years, Jack Hill has had a job many people wouldn’t want. He’s led Pierce County’s Department of Assigned Counsel, defending people charged with crimes who often are politically unpopular to defend – men, women and children who can’t afford to pay for an attorney.

Despite the challenges, Hill will retire at the end of the month from a job he thinks has been – and still is – great. “I still like to come in the door,” he said recently. Friday, the 56-year-old father of four will walk out that door at 949 Market St. for the last time...

“It’s a moral commitment at a constitutional level to make sure the system is fair,” he said. “The constitution doesn’t say you have to prosecute people. It says you have the right to counsel. The constitution is about protecting us from government...”

Hill said having a heart operation in the early 1990s made him lose his love of conflict in the courtroom. “This business takes a toll on you that you can’t quantify,” Hill said. “The practice of law – at least criminal law – has not become kinder and gentler. … Living in litigation is as stressful a situation as anything, short of war.”

Since then he’s spent less time as a trial lawyer and more time trying, through cases and lobbying, to reform the law... “Maybe I’m just a social worker at heart,” Hill said...

June 28, 2006

ID: bullies

A long article in this week's Boise Weekly expands on the "calloused" treatment of Fabian Alvarez, an Eastern Idaho 7-year-old who was locked up in detention for four days this past April:

Let the Punishment Fit the Policy - Idaho's school disciplinarians struggle to find the line between reprimanding and understanding

Alvarez's case may seem like an isolated incident, and many public school officials agree that it is rare that law enforcement is called in for discipline in the schools. But some people are saying that this case and others like it are symptoms of a school system that is increasingly prioritizing policy and rules--sometimes beyond what seems reasonable and without considering the underlying reasons for a student's misbehavior...

The effects of policy taken too far can be lasting, says the attorney representing jailed 7-year-old Fabian Alvarez. "I have interacted with Fabian since he was placed in detention and remain convinced that the experience of being taken away from his mother, processed into detention, and held for three days has lasting consequences on his mental and emotional state," writes Mark Echohawk in an e-mail...

The online story includes links to Bully Police (which is about policing bullies and not bullying by the police) and Jared's Story, the 13-year-old whose suicide after repeated bullying led to the passage in several states of "Jared's Law", which in part allows for bullies to be punished by the juvenile justice system.

Here's a reminder that bullying comes in more than one guise - Teachers who bully students

Crimes against homeless people

Doug Dawson, the homeless veteran who was set on fire last Friday in Spokane has died. Two men, ages 22 and 23, are suspects.

From Washblog: Doug Dawson, 1956-2006

...a case can be made that attacks like this are hate crimes... but I think it's more accurate... to call them crimes of indifference...

From Olyblog: Hate crimes against the homeless

Every day I hear stories from street people about being “moved on”, verbally and even physically assaulted... I’m tired of it.

This happens from Washington to Florida. From the 13th Juror:
Some teens' idea of sport - beating up homeless people

Five Orlando teenagers have been beating the homeless for sport. They are now facing second-degree murder charges...

June 27, 2006

Maple Lane School

Today I made my first trip to Maple Lane School, a "school" surrounded by fences topped with concertina wire, home to about 200 young men ages 14 to 21, a couple of them my clients.

I found the blog of someone who's also new to Maple Lane:

...underneath their gang tattoos, orange jump suits, and terrifying case histories - these convicts are just kids...

and the blog of a man who's done outreach with teenagers at Maple Lane and Green Hill schools:

...All faced deep crisis in spirit and vision. Most did not know what they were going to do with their lives. Yet, as always, they were smart, incisive, and capable of great imagination...

Here is an Evergreen State College program for teens at Maple Lane and Green Hill, Gateways for Incarcerated Youth.

Also from Evergreen, here is a gallery of portraits of young men at Maple Lane, taken in 1997.

Today's post goes out with respect to my colleague Mike at The Wretched of the Earth:

I believe deeply in what we're doing. Today I started to choke up when my judge lectured a kid getting deferred probation about what it will take to successfully complete. Long time readers will know that I was once in that position myself...

June 26, 2006

CA: "my heart went out to them all"

Last Friday the Crimson Bear couldn't help but overhear the deliberations of a death penalty jury in Yolo County:

Now the bailiffs and the other lawyers at the PD's office have walked by the jury room and heard yelling and screaming through the door (the courthouse is kinda small and sound carries well because of all of the marble walls and floors). This, it seems, was a heated deliberation...

Click on through to find out the jury's verdict.

Live from Ukraine, it's criminal defense

In the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv,

The typical criminal case commences when a suspect is "invited" to the police station in handcuffs...

... and things go downhill from there. An interesting look (with pictures) at post-Soviet criminal justice, aspects of which seem familiar on a bad day:

The defendant is then found guilty and the case is recessed... During this time... attempts to raise the proper inducements to encourage the authorities or the court to be lenient at sentencing...

From Ed and Susan's Adventures in The Ukraine, from a city called Kharkiv (Харків) in Ukrainian, Kharkov (Харьков) in Russian.

(see also Carpetblogger) (oh, and don't forget CEELI)

Monday night dog blogging

Bad news: in Idaho, somebody's been impersonating a veterinarian.

Good news: in Washington, our governor has a new puppy. The First Dog's name is Trooper - he's a Shiba Inu. He came out at the end of Gregoire's press conference today. KING-TV has the video - it's kind of endearing how the tough politician goes on about her new little doggie.

ID: ACLU calls for more prisons

...considering the alternative, which is continuing to ship Idaho inmates out of state to an uncertain fate. From the Times-News:

ACLU Idaho calls for more state prisons

Overcrowding and the practice of housing inmates out of state have prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho to call for state leaders to build more prisons.

"Bottom line, we probably have to immediately start thinking about building more prisons in Idaho, which is a terrible thing for an ACLU activist to say," Jack Van Valkenburgh, head of ACLU Idaho, told The Spokesman-Review... "I want my money going to schools; I don't want it going for prisons, but you've got to provide minimally adequate care..."

Van Valkenburgh said sentencing reform and increased drug-treatment programs are "the way to solve the prison problem," but in the meantime he believes Idaho is risking an increase in crime by sending its prisoners to Texas.

"My sense is the mentality of this facility doesn't have rehabilitation and reintegration into society as a goal," he said.

June 25, 2006

ID: Twin Falls murder trial update

From the Times-News:

Annoyed witness testifies in Pina murder trial

Getting a yawning, stretching and increasingly annoyed witness to recall details Friday of a Nov. 29 slaying at his house seemed a bit like coaxing a Rottweiler to release its grip.

Yes, I'm acquainted with this guy. And this sort of witness, too.

Srećan put!

Eff, rising star in the law student / cartoonist blog world, is heading for former Yugoslavia, the lucky dog: first Dubrovnik for study, then Crna Gora for family and possible match-making. There is some danger that he will come home attached to a nice Serbian girl.

Not Ceca - a nice Serbian girl.

Baltic festivities, penitentiary amenities

So yesterday we were heading out to the Latvian center for the Jāņi / Līgo (mid - summer) celebration, when we drove past the Shelton prison (which I think would thoroughly freak out any Latvian - American kid whose parents are taking him/her to camp sight unseen for the first time - "the Latvian children’s summer campMežotne,” conveniently located next to the Washington Corrections Center...").

Joe asked, "do they have a swimming pool?" No, but that would be nice.

Bonus link for the indefensible David "Alonzo looked at me as if I was speaking Latvian" Feige: how they say "lawyer" in Latvia.

June 24, 2006

ID: DP sought in beheading murder

From the Idaho Press-Tribune of Canyon County:

Time will face death penalty

Prosecutors will seek the death penalty in the murder case of Nampa woman Theresa Time, attorneys told 3rd District Judge Gregory Culet on Friday.

Alofa Time, the victim’s former husband, faces first-degree murder charges. The victim’s severed head was found thrown from Time’s truck in a fatal crash in Boise on June 14...

On today's front page you'll find a link to video from Time's arraignment. The defense lawyer is Alex Briggs, a good guy who almost came to work for me in Twin Falls. His office is Wiebe and Fouser of Caldwell, the contract public defenders for Canyon County. Klaus Wiebe and Scott Fouser are the experienced attorneys I turned to for first-chairing my one death penalty case.

June 23, 2006

Blonde Justice's real name revealed!

At last we can call Blondie by her first name: Marsha Marsha Marsha!

In stepped Marsha, the blonde, vaguely muscular, stunningly beautiful public defender . She was dressed in a tight, low cut blouse and a miniskirt – the kind of outfit a woman would only wear in a cheap suspense novel...

P.S.: and she really looks like this!

When the day is long

Some of my public defender colleagues are having a rough time just now.

Woman of the Law posts from the heart:

I am not fighting the system that crushes the lives of my clients. I just help it run smoothly.

I feel like every day has become an exercise in futility...

Audacity is heart-sick:

The last few weeks have felt like years. I'm mentally, emotionally and physically exchausted...

I am officially burnt out at the age of 25...

No, no , no, you're not alone. That's one of the graces of having p.d. colleagues, even if they're virtual blogging colleagues. I think I've been through some similar times and moods and come out the other side. Sometimes it was enough just for someone to check up on me and say, "it's going to be all right."

It's going to be all right.

"Florida criminal annoyer"

I think we've all enjoyed this colleague's Web ubiquity:

Mr. Spammerstein is a former Assistant Public Defender who was sacked for blogging at work and now devotes his practice exclusively to criminal defense with a strong emphasis on annoying 20six users...

Mr. Spammerstein looks forward to each new case as a pigeon looks forward to each new statue. Call him today, or visit his website, or simply wait five minutes for him to repost this...

High hillarity parody delivered with a Brit twist.

P.D. as good as paid

Some interesting responses to this open question on Yahoo! Answers:

"Is a public defender just as good as a hired attorney?"

Also interesting that the replies are mostly neutral, even positive.

Update: ACS at Defending Those People takes this question and runs with it.

Joe is 7 today

Happy birthday, my fine young man.

June 22, 2006

Do an internship, free somebody

An intern in the Bay Area is discovering that "law school doesn't teach you anything about probation and parole," and in the process really helped someone today:

Short story first, long story to follow:
This guy was right, he was actually being held in jail for the past 30 days by MISTAKE and should have been released! What kind of major suck is that?!...

The Best Day So Far.

and it's still only June.

Another p.d. with a Myspace account

This guy might not be having a good summer:

The worst side effect of being a public defender is that I have become excellent at detecting lies...

June 21, 2006

ID: outside the drug house, 1 man dead

From the Times-News:

Pina murder trial: Day two

A typical drug house.

Known, but not considered a priority and 20 or 30 others like it in Twin Falls...

Some people still hold a Mayberry RFD image of life in small heartland cities like Twin; they shouldn't.

Change of venue

After being a public defender for a few years, Margaret of Funny Yet Accurate is off to become an elementary school teacher.

She says it's going to be a very happy year.

June 20, 2006

ID: somewhere under the rainbow

From the National Geographic, this rare Idaho "rainbow":

Sean got to see this live and in person. I suppose that you could be all prosaic about this being just a circumhorizontal arc caused by light passing through wispy, high-altitude cirrus clouds, which occurs only when the sun is very high in the sky and the hexagonal ice crystals that make up the cirrus clouds are shaped like thick plates with their faces parallel to the ground.

Or, you could take it as a celestial high-five to the folks back home fighting Idaho's latest anti-gay ballot measure.


A good word for what witnesses do, and some bloggers, too. From the ABA Journal's McElhaney on Litigation:

“Confabulation,” said Angus. “Unconsciously replacing fact with fantasy in your memory is a natural human tendency. Everybody does it to some extent. It’s not intentional lying—although there is plenty of that going around, as well. Confabulation is subconsciously ‘improving’ the story so it fits our psychological needs better than what actually happened..."

Tell me you haven't had a witness confabulate all over the courtroom, and I'll tell you that you haven't done enough trials.

For foster care / dependency/ child protection p.d.'s

At the moment I'm listening to a pretty good edition of NPR's "Justice Talking" , titled "Foster Care: Broken Families, Broken Systems". It's available as an MP3 or a Windows Media stream.

Right now Richard Wexler is speaking. He's a reporter and director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR). Wexler is saying that the one of the best things you can do to reform the system is to improve the court-appointed counsel available to birth parents. True that. Unfortunately, he's illustrating his point by perpetuating the spectre of "some overwhelmed public defender who has absolutely no chance against the state."

Overwhelmed maybe, but when I did do child protection defense, and when my client was doing well and the stars were aligned, I did win a few against the state. It's not a hopeless practice, and the victories are sweet. Dependency p.d.'s everywhere, hang in there.

(now I'm listening to an interview with a mom who eventually got her son back - good stuff)

Bonus links: what do you know, Richard Wexler has a blog. His organization also insists that "hysteria over methamphetamine has become the latest excuse to “take the child and run”:"

(T)he biggest addiction problem in child welfare is neither meth nor crack nor any other drug. The biggest addiction problem in child welfare is great big, prestigious, mainstream private child welfare agencies with blue-chip boards of directors that are addicted to their per diem payments for holding children in foster care...

That sound you hear is axes grinding. It'll be comforting I'm sure to my previous meth-addicted client moms.

June 19, 2006

Trial buzz

This is pretty huge for a new public defender:

I hadn't read the file because I didn't know the case existed because it wasn't my case... Then came the trial. It's really all a blur and I have had several beers since I started typing, but I won.

Classic seat-of-the-pants p.d. advocacy... not bad, rookie!

Skelly Wright and the apartments of doom

If you're a renter and the toilet breaks, give thanks for Judge Skelly Wright as you call maintenance:

Javins v. First National Realty Company, a 1970 case, establishes the rule that landlords have to pay to keep buildings up to snuff, not tenants...

Skelly Wright... not only overturned nine centuries of property law in favor of the urban poor but handily convinced many other courts and state legislatures to do the same.

Georgetown Law's Javins Project website is full of PDF files from the trial and appellate levels of the case:

Javins v. First National Realty Corporation, 428 F.2d 1071 (D.C. Cir. 1970) was one of the most important landlord-tenant cases of the twentieth century. Read by most first year law students all over the country, Judge Skelly Wright's famous opinion firmly established the implied warranty of habitability as a staple of American property law.

Remember, when today's attackers of an independent judiciary go on about supposed judicial activism, they ain't seen nothing like the real thing: this blog's avatar, the Honorable J. Skelly Wright.

(for new visitors, from a site with a big ol' picture of Judge Wright)

June 18, 2006

It's the frayed clothes, isn't it?

Overheard by a public defender blogger:

"My God. I am so offended. These people downstairs asked me if I was a public defender. I'm like, no, I dress better."

Observed by a prosecutor blogger:

State's Attorneys dress nicer than public defenders. Along the same line, State's Attorneys take better care of their hair. I don't know why.

Birthday boy's dad thanks first responders

Joe's real birthday is still a few days away, but the big celebration was yesterday. Thanks to Captain Tom and the crew of Littlerock Fire Rescue for making an almost seven-year-old's day.

(Birthday parties at fire stations - why didn't they have these when I was Joe's age?)

June 16, 2006

Shades of gray

Amber has been assigned to a summer internship with a district attorney's office, and after being told, "You lean more towards the defense side of things, don't you?," she's had an epiphany:

The line between the good guys and the bad guys is not clear, and they reside on all different sides of the bench.

I think the post is well-written - she's doing an admirable job of trying to keep her balance. Call me a non-true-believer if you must, but I could stand to see more of this sort of honest human ambivalence in the discussions and depictions of our jobs.

June 15, 2006

CA: blog about marijuana use, go to jail

Via Drug Law Blog, this sad story of what can happen when you post your love of the gentle herb on your MySpace account:

West Sacramento arrest for "MySpace" braggart

"i have a medical condition that my doctor says i have to cure with 'green' medicine. the wierd thing is that alllll of my friends have the same condition!! haha, its legal b*tches!"

(P)olice investigated him, obtained a warrant, and searched his home, seizing marijuana, methamphetamine, a gun and a scale...

Dude! Cops are reading Public Defender Investigator!


* This is great - it has Legos; from Anonymous Law Student, MySpace = CopSpace

* If it's not law enforcement checking out MySpace, it's the NSA; from New Scientist.com, Pentagon sets its sights on social networking websites.

Meth a myth, pundits tell grieving families

Here's Mark Kleiman at the Huffington Post on

the latest press-release-dressed-up-as-a-research-report from the Sentencing Project (pdf file), in which Ryan S. King "proves" that methamphetamine isn't really much of a problem...

Debunking the Debunking: The Meth Problem Is Real

From today's Olympian:

Meth suspected in baby's death - Mother could face homicide charge after premature delivery

A Thurston County woman who prematurely gave birth while methamphetamine was in her system is under investigation for homicide after her baby son died, authorities said Wednesday. Juventina Chavelas-Reyes, 30, already is charged with endangerment for selling meth in front of her two other children, ages 2 and 4, in the family's Grand Mound trailer...


From Mark Kleiman's site, Even real drug problems get hyped

From FullosseousFlap's Dental Blog, Methamphetamine Watch: Avoid Dentists in Fact Finding? (warning: scary "meth mouth" pictures ahead)

From Treatment Online - Advocacy Group's Report Attempts to Turn Meth Spotlight on Press

From About.com, A Child Eye's View of Meth Abuse

June 14, 2006

Indefensible: a love story

Chaque notaire porte en soi les débris d'un poète
(Inside each lawyer are the ruins of a poet - Flaubert)

Disclaimer: this is not a review of "Indefensible: One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice" by David Feige. This is a reaction to "Indefensible : One Lawyer's Journey into the Inferno of American Justice" by David Feige.

Do I like it? Yes. Is it good for the public defenders? Yes.

For me, Indefensible is like an episode of Sliders (the first two seasons, before it sucked), where I've jumped into a world which looks a bit familiar, but is filled with unfamiliar traps and peril, characters and comedy. It's cinematic in its forward propulsion and discursive digressions as we follow our Dante into the fire. I wouldn't be shocked to turn on HBO one night and see Indefensible in place of Deadwood and The Wire.

Feige takes us through a day of courthouse triage, where it seems that he's always running, always late, and always juggling which client or which docket will get the least of his limited attention. Who's assigning this caseload anyhow? Three murder clients at one time, and felony clients, and misdemeanor clients too, all waiting in different courtrooms to be tended to. I love vertical representation as much as the next p.d., but here I'm left with a picture of a lawyer who flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions. Feige is truthful about the doubt and guilt that come from all this hustling, in a nasty system which essentially is structured to make it impossible to render effective counsel to all the people all of the time.

Feige's home base is (or was) the Bronx Defenders, who deserve the praise for their expansive client-centered approach to indigent defense. It's enjoyable and highly entertaining to watch good colleagues doing a good job, and Feige seems good at this job. He ends up as the star of Indefensible, in the fine cinematic tradition of the tough guy with a soft spot, who says, "Some times you just gotta break the rules," as he jumps the metal detector queue on his way to slipping his jailed buddy a pack of contraband cigarettes.

(I would do anything for love(but I won't do that) - Loaf)

So inevitably I start comparing my lazy ass to the heroics of the Bronx Defenders:

* Maybe I should intentionally break the jail rules and risk getting banned from jail visiting in order to establish how sympatico I am with my client? (did that in Ada County with a legal pad, felt manipulated and still got hit with an IAC from the guy; someone in Twin Falls County did it, and we all paid for it with a big new sheet of plexiglas)

* Maybe I should swear at the judge? (oh, sorely have wanted to on occasion - had a colleague who every Monday afternoon had to say "m*therf*cker m*therf*cker m*therf*cker" just before leaving to avoid it popping out of his mouth in court)

* Maybe I should feel guilty for not giving all my clients my cellphone number? (some have it - I only got a cellphone for the first time last year)

* Maybe I should address my clients as "Darling"? (uh, that goes against all my northern European uptightitude, no matter where you stand on the line-drawing issue)

After the twelveth "Darling" or so, it hits me: Indefensible is a romance. Feige seems to have truly loved his clients. Of course, deep affection can bring with it some romanticizing and some gauzy soft focus for those beloved, some idealization of their flaws, some minimization of their nasty habits and some cold fury for their oppressors. Still, who reads a romance for balance? In a world of non-stop Law and Order reruns, it's enjoyable to tune in to Indefensible.

June 13, 2006

ID: more Texas private prison woe

Via the blog of an Idaho prosecutor, Thoughts on Justice, from KIFI:

Idaho Prisoners Stage Protest at Texas Corrections Facility

85 Idaho inmates housed in a Texas jail are on lockdown after a non-violent protest Saturday morning. The inmates refused to return to their cells inside the building after completing recreation time outdoors at the Newton County Correction Center...

Via e-mail from a former co-worker of mine, from the Idaho Statesman:
Idaho inmates escape from private Texas prison

Two Idaho inmates escaped Monday evening from a privately run prison in Texas, taking advantage of a disturbance in another part of the minimum- and medium-security facility to scale a perimeter fence...

The prisoners were among 419 inmates who were sent to the Newton County Correctional Facility in Newton, Texas, earlier this year...

From the Dallas Morning News: 1 prisoner caught, 1 at large after escape

The pair's escape is just the latest in a string of incidents involving Idaho inmates at the prison run by Geo Group Inc., based in Boca Raton, Fla. Idaho officials have traveled repeatedly to the former county jail in Newton to scrutinize the operation.

On April 7, six Idaho inmates complained of abuse, and one supervisor was fired while another guard was demoted after an investigation. On May 30, another inmate was doused with pepper spray. And last weekend, 85 Idaho inmates staged a strike, demanding butter for rolls, more TV channels and cheaper prices at the prison commissary.

Idaho corrections officials who have been to the Texas facility said it doesn't have the amenities of prisons in Idaho. It meets Idaho requirements, but "it's a very different cultural atmosphere than Idaho," said Jones, adding that disgruntled inmates unhappy with the move to Texas are one cause of the incidents...

The same damned facility: that privatizing prisons policy is working out really well for Idaho. How do you like this "money-saving" for-profit gulag archipelago now?

And the escapee out of Twin Falls County? He was my client. Suerte, Orlando.

Update: a local angle from the Beaumont, Texas Enterprise, Manhunt scours Newton County woods

Update: via Sean at Objective=Justice, the ACLU of Idaho is speaking out

"Inmate frustration and anger is constantly rising," ACLU Executive Director Jack Van Valkenburgh quotes just one of the stack of letters on his desk from irrate Idaho inmates now living at the Newton County Correctional Facility in Texas. "And the majority of the population expresses their anger, disappointment and frustration at the setting they find themselves forced to live in."

Go, Jack Van V.!

WA: in Chelan County, meet the new p.d., same as the old p.d.

Longtime public defender to head new nonprofit office (site requires registration)

A Wenatchee lawyer who has provided public defense in Chelan County for 16 years is apparently the only one interested in forming a new nonprofit agency to provide the service. Keith Howard and Associates submitted the only application for creating an independent, nonprofit agency to represent indigent defendants...

Keith Howard's firm held the public defender contract at the time of the Wenatchee Witch Hunt child sex abuse cases, of which then-president Gerald B. Lefcourt of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said,

I am deeply troubled by the wholesale violations of the civil rights of over 40 adults and 60 children that occurred in Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. You may well be asking yourself, 'Where were their defense lawyers? How could they let something like this happen?'

A civil attorney suing Chelan County on behalf of some of the wrongfully accused stated that the local criminal justice system's checks and balances failed in the Wenatchee cases while the county contracted with the Barker and Howard law firm for public defense services:

"Don't give me this hooey about checks and balances in a small town...There needs to be some sort of a monitoring system with the people who have the contract. If you are going to put money anywhere, it should be looked at and monitored."

The chief public defender for Pierce County reviewed the handling of the cases and concluded:

(I)n Wenatchee there are genuine causes for concern. And this fact is no reflection on the quality of the lawyers holding the public defender contract. Instead it reflects badly on the limited public defender budget and on the imperfect court system that is left to fill in the gaps. Because most of these defendants are indigent, budgetary constraints have severely impacted the legal defenses of the accused.

Added value

Dan Filler at Concurring Opinions on The Special Value of Public Defenders:

Why do I think services provided by public defenders are better, on balance, than those provided by individual appointed defense lawyers? Four reasons. First, there is the matter of expertise...

Because of their size, public defender offices also do a better job supporting good lawyering...

A third plus: public defenders raise expectations for other defense attorneys...

Finally, public defenders create - and support - a community where criminal defense is seen as virtuous and worthy of effort...

None of this is to say that appointed individual counsel never provide good criminal defense. But there are institutional benefits to public defender offices that are hard to match...

June 12, 2006

IN: the kids aren't all right

Courtesy of Liz at I Speak of Dreams, a series in the Indianapolis Star on problems in the county juvenile justice system:

Danger zone - A system intended to rehabilitate kids has its own problems: overcrowding, lack of due process, sex abuse charges

Defenseless children - Young defendants often lack legal counsel

Juveniles in Marion County and the rest of Indiana routinely have their rights to legal representation waived before consulting with a public defender or private lawyer. Parents are allowed to waive their children's rights to a lawyer -- even when they are the ones pressing charges.

Yet, even with an attorney, a juvenile isn't guaranteed a fair hearing. "In the juvenile system, you are at the mercy of the prosecutor and the judge," says Larry Landis, executive director of the Indiana Public Defender Council. "You don't have any checks and balances..."

June 09, 2006

WA: it's pay to play in B'ham court

The Tri-Cities' prosecutorial-leniency-for-donations-to-charity story has other Washington papers looking into their local prosecutors' practices. In Whatcom County, the payoffs aren't to charity; they're going to the county drug enforcement fund. From the Bellingham Herald:

Is justice for sale in Whatcom County?

Neither Joshua S___ nor Joseph H___ had any criminal history when they bought $15,000 worth of marijuana... But then their cases diverged dramatically... Sutton, who put up most or all of the money for the drug buy, paid $9,040 to a fund administered by the Whatcom County prosecutor. He was allowed to plead guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge... H____, a construction worker, pleaded guilty as charged and was sentenced to 45 days on a work crew. The felony on his record means he loses the right to vote, and it could affect his ability to land a job for the rest of his life.

Their cases illustrate the inequality of an unusual system in which defendants with quick access to $2,000 or more can often "buy down'' the charges against them... The money, which must be paid up front, is directed to the county's drug enforcement fund. It's disbursed by Prosecutor Dave McEachran with court approval...

But several lawyers, law professors and other prosecutors drew a distinction. This isn't restitution, they said, and it's not a penalty prescribed by law: It's a payment to avoid punishment.

"Plea bargaining isn't always pretty, but this just seems to make a mockery of it,'' said Helen Anderson, who teaches criminal law at the University of Washington law school.

"Yikes, it sounds like the sale of indulgences in the old Catholic church,'' said Janet Ainsworth, a criminal law professor at Seattle University. "If you were to have a continuum between paying a fine and bribery, this is somewhere in between.''

John Strait, a legal ethics expert at Seattle University Law, said... (t)here's also a potential conflict of interest... because McEachran's office is making charging decisions based in part on the money it can obtain for a fund he administers. "We should be punishing people for what they've done, rather than by who's going to give us money..''

In another place and time with a similar set-up, I was torn between my ethical obligation to get my client the best possible outcome, and my moral sense that the whole racket stank. I used to explain the deal to a client by saying, "it's sort of paying a legal bribe. " Yikes, indeedy!

June 08, 2006


How do teens feel about guns? "Do we really know what draws some young people to a life of guns and violence?" Via CrimProf Blog, "Bernard Harcourt recounts in-depth interviews with youths detained at an all-male correctional facility, exploring how they talk about guns and what meanings they ascribe to them," in his new book Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy.

Listen to a radio interview here.

I know how one of my young clients feels about guns - he loves them! And he was quite open about telling everyone. He's doing one year now, a small sweet-faced violent kid.

: via the book's publisher, the University of Chicago Law School faculty blog has more information, including links to Powerpoint, mp3 and podcast of Professor Harcourt's earlier talk on kids and guns, including these quotes from boys aged 12 - 17:

“If you’re out there and you don't have a strap, you're going to get killed.” “I had me two baby 9's. I fell in love with those. They look beautiful to me.” “I like to reload bullet shells.” “You feel powerful when you have a gun. You get respect.” “I love guns. Hell yeah, I love guns. I love everything about a gun.”

More professional indiscretion via Livejournal

As long as you're using Myspace and Xanga as investigative tools, don't overlook LiveJournal, as accessed by most search engines. A few clicks, and complete strangers, or supervisors, or cops, can find all kinds of insights.

Today's example:

Things have been real good here at the public defender, but come august i will have been here a year and thats plenty of break from brick stomping...

Which is good, because

This weekend there was a gift sent from the heavens in the form of some cubes of hash... Me and the man partook and who knew hash made ya randy!? Now i know.

It also might make you a little stupid - now you know. You also might want to check to make sure that your blog is really as private as you think.

MySpace, their space

Our friend SanchoVilla the Public Defender Investigator has scooped Salon. Here's Sancho:

Myspace As An Investigation Tool

Excellent post, with visual aids showing how you can harness the power of the Internets to dig up all kinds of useful dirt.

And here's today's Salon:

MySpace or OurSpace? - School administrators and even cops are policing the social networking site. For teens used to living their lives online, that isn't fair.

"We patrol the Internet like we patrol the streets," officer James McNamee, a member of the Barrington, Ill., police department's Special Crimes Unit, says. "We'll go in on a MySpace or a Xanga, we'll pick out our area and we'll just start surfing it, checking it, seeing what's going on."

McNamee says the fact that police have only recently realized what a powerful tool social networking sites can be for investigative purposes may be what makes MySpace users feel the site is their own private realm...

Cops snooping on evidence of drug dealing and grafitti tagging - dude, that is so totally unfair!

To arms!

Welcome, visitors from Of Arms & The Law!

Here's the latest on pistol-packing prosecutor Kimball Mason, from KIFI:

Kimball Mason Moves Along in Prison System

Channel 8 reminded me of this fun feature from the Idaho Department of Correction (or Corrections - no one's quite sure, including the department's own URL): type the disgraced prosecuting attorney 's name into the search field, and you too can play "Where's Kimball?" as he makes his way through the penitentiary system. Right now he's at the Reception and Diagnostic Unit (RDU) of ISCI, in the desert south of Boise.

KPVI has extensive coverage on Mason:

Investigating New Crimes

Stosich Under Investigation:

The friend and attorney in the middle of the latest criminal investigation against Kimball Mason is feeling an impact on his legal career... The decision came down on Monday to terminate the relationship between the Bonneville County and John Stosich, who was contracted to work on misdemeanor cases... it's a contract that pays several thousand dollars a month. Stosich... kept dozens of Mason's guns at his house for about a week up until the day after Mason was sentenced. That decision to hold the guns raises serious concerns about his judgment with those in the county.

The public defender's office is now handling all of Stosich's public defender cases and is currently working on putting out a bid to hire another attorney to take over...

I haven't met John Stosich, who has a business address in Idaho Falls. There is a John Stosich of Blackfoot, ID, the big town between Idaho Falls and Pocatello, who has a website,"Snake River Custom Calls." That John Stosich seems to know a bit about guns. I don't know that he's the same guy as the lawyer up the road - perhaps someone from Idahofallz.com can advise.

KPVI has a treasure trove of PDF files on the Mason investigation and court case. Memos, letters, and tons of interviews - 110 documents and counting.

Myself, I don't like firearms, but I believe that the Second Amendment states an individual right to possess them. Unless you're a felon and/or a dirty D.A., that is; I'm arbitrary and capricious like that.

June 07, 2006

"How do you spell murder?"

From Liz at I Speak of Dreams, who recommends a suggestive film on the "LD-JD link:"

Histories like these are like clues to a scene of a crime: usually an undiagnosed learning disability.

An estimated 5% of the children and adults in our society have learning disabilities. That number jumps to four times greater for the prison population and a conservative estimate of 40% of youth in detention facilities have some form of learning disability. This is often identified as "the LD-JD link..."

New research now shows that prison literacy programs, including special education for persons with learning disabilities, are more effective at lowering recidivism* rates than either boot camps or shock incarceration: the rate for juvenile offenders is between 60% and 84%, but for those youngsters involved in prison literacy programs the recidivism rate drops to 20%...

More information about the LIFE prison literacy program is here.

June 06, 2006

"One must imagine the public defender happy"

A cool and promising LiveJournal post from the midst of a juvenile drug court training conference, from someone who was just recently a juvenile herself:

This is what I want to do with my life, I told the Public Defender sitting next to me. Juvenile law, she smiled and nodded, making her the first person to whom I had spoken who did not immediately shoot down my this desire...

The first person, but definitely not the last. Count me as another person who supports your aspirations, Camudekyu - I hope you'll join us p.d.'s some day.

WA: self-defense reimbursement

This is unusual - loser pays in a criminal acquittal. From the Olympian:

Bar brawl acquittal might cost state - Jurors find soldier not guilty in fight outside O'Blarney's

A courtroom defeat for Thurston County prosecutors could cost the state as much as $25,000, or more. That's how much a 22-year-old soldier, Sgt. Matthew Young, could be entitled to in legal expenses after a jury acquitted him of second-degree assault with a firearm.

A Thurston County Superior Court jury ruled Friday that Young acted in self-defense when he wielded a gun to ward off a group of people who accosted him and his girlfriend... In cases where a defendant claims self-defense and is acquitted, the jury is allowed to determine whether the defendant is entitled to legal costs. It happens rarely, and several South Sound lawyers and judges recall it happening once or twice in their careers...

Rick Cordes was the defense lawyer. The prosecutor was David Soukup.

Update: here's your cite - RCW 9A.16.110:

When a person charged with a crime listed in subsection (1) of this section is found not guilty by reason of self-defense, the state of Washington shall reimburse the defendant for all reasonable costs, including loss of time, legal fees incurred, and other expenses involved in his or her defense...

Oh to be a clever nob in the fur trade!

Thanks to Boing Boing, this guide to the criminal slang of Victorian London, so that if you are ever transported back in time, you can communicate with your clients like this:

'Cranky Jem is nabbed. He and the Resurrection Man did a pannie up Soho way. They got off safe with the swag; and the Resurrection Man went on to the Mint. Jem took to the Old House in Chick Lane and let me in for my reglars. But after a week or ten days the Resurrection Man nosed upon him, and will turn King's Evidence afore the beaks. So Jem was handed over to the dubsman and this time he'll get lagged for life.'

June 05, 2006

NE: fox suggests improvements to chicken coop

From KTIV - Sioux City, IA:

Dakota County Considering Cutting Public Defender's Office

Has anyone else noticed that it's a prosecutor who's recommending that the county commissioners abolish the public defenders office?

Coincidental un-related story: Criminal charges have been dropped against Dakota County, Nebraska's public defender

ID: memory hole

It's the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Teton Dam, a day which my fellow Idahoans commemorate by deluding ourselves that Washington D.C has ever done anything good by us, such as reclaiming the desert, building the local infrastructure, or sending us more than our national fair share of federal pork. Here's the new governor speaking:

We had a dam break in 1976, but we didn’t whine about it. We got out our backhoes and we rebuilt the roads and replanted the fields and got on with our lives. That’s the culture here.

He does have a way with backhoes. Funny, I knew him before he was a simple country rancher, back when he was a cunning Boise lawyer, "Field Marshall von Risch, commandant of the Idaho Senate."

Sean Sirrine of Objective-Justice is not impressed. Neither is Morialekafa.

ID: helpful reminder for aspiring thieves

If you are going to take up a career as an identity thief, it's best not to steal the I.D.'s of deputy prosecutors. From the Times-News:

Police recover arsenal of stolen weapons

What started out to be an attempt to a help a stranded motorist has turned into a major burglary investigation, resulting in the arrest of six people... Two individuals were standing in the barrow pit near the car. As the officer pulled behind the vehicle, the driver took off, nearly hitting one of the people standing nearby...

The officers detained the two men and called for backup. While waiting, the officers searched the barrow pit and found the identification documents belonging to Cassia County deputy prosecutor Blaine Cannon and Minidoka County deputy prosecutor Nicky Cannon...

Brent Matherly... and Michael Angel Oteagui... were transported to the Mini-Cassia Criminal Justice Center, where additional stolen items were recovered from the suspects...

Thanks to my southern Idaho upbringing, I know what a barrow pit is. I also know how to pronounce "Oteagui."

June 04, 2006

VA: lost hope

From Ken Lammers at CrimLaw, a very fine, you-are-there post titled History of a Trial.

Indefensible, Virginia style.

WA: reality bites - meth mouth no myth

From the Seattle Times:

Meth users' dental bills eating up taxpayer money

Rae's teeth throbbed with pain as the guards led him from his prison cell to a chair in the dental clinic at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

A short time later, seven of the convicted meth cook's teeth, left rotted and infected after years of abusing the homemade drug, were removed from his mouth...

Rae says he hasn't used the drug in more than three years.

"I lost everything I own as far as physical possessions. I can't believe I let something like that possess me," he said of his addiction to meth. "I'm glad it was only my teeth, not my life, that I lost."

From the Olympian:

Fixing meth addicts teeth takes bite out of state prison budget

About 40 percent of the state's annual dental budget for prisoners in Washington goes toward repairing or removing teeth ravaged by methamphetamine...

See also Dental care for meth users behind bars costs taxpayers millions

Off-topic: hello San Dimas!

A happy day: an old friend (currently with Southeastern Ohio Legal Services ) and his wife are passing through after a drive up the whole U.S. Pacific coast from San Diego to the top of the Olympic Peninsula, then my little family is flying home tonight!

Usual household viewing: Pokemon and Barefoot Contessa

This afternoon's viewing: the gem-like brilliance that is "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey":
"You might be a king or a little street sweeper,
But sooner or later you'll dance with the Reaper!"

Recent links about attorneys and depression

Two from Raymond Ward at Minor Wisdom:

"Law students and depression", which will lead you to "Stress, Depression, Substance Abuse and Suicide" (the essay, not the actual ailments); and

"Lawyers and depression: An explanation?".

And via the blog of the New Jersey Lawyers Assistance Program you'll find "The devastation of depression: - Lawyers are at greater risk--It's an impairment to take seriously," from the ABA Division for Bar Services.

Now go take on the day!

ID: different counties, different murder outcomes

From the Times-News:

Twin Falls County prosecutors lead Magic Valley in making homicide charges stick

There is a saying among some Magic Valley criminal attorneys: If you are charged with homicide, make sure it’s not in Twin Falls County...

Across the Snake River Canyon, two adjacent counties promise homicide defendants a less certain outcome...

“If the system is working correctly the defense will lose nearly every case,” (prosecutor Grant) Loebs said. “You should file the cases that are difficult if you are convinced the person’s guilty and if you have the evidence...”

June 03, 2006

Like New Year's Eve, sort of

Oh boy, the minutes are ticking down...

It's now June 3, 2006, the street date for David Feige's big book.


Check out the reports from the Indefensible Street Team.

: Celebration sweeps the nation, as readers shout, "Yippie!"

June 02, 2006

Sweet home Idaho

I may be a political refugee from my home state and all, but this kind of funhouse-mirror reporting is enough to make me want to go all Lynyrd Skynyrd on some Briton's ass. From the Guardian:

Journey to the heart of Bushlandia - The wide open spaces of Idaho have little room for anti-war sentiment

To liberals on both coasts, Idaho is redneck country... Being a Democrat in this setting can be a lonely existence. "We do still find ourselves whispering in the supermarket about it," said Maria Weeg, executive director of the Idaho Democratic party. "There's such an overwhelming psychological thing. No one wants to be part of 'the other', and the Republicans have done a pretty good job of making Democrats here into the enemy."

Link via the inexplicably optimistic (and non-whispering) Red State Rebels.

ID: and I swear that I don't have a gun

It would seem that former Idaho Falls city attorney and newly-minted felon Kimball Mason was less than forthcoming about all the firearms he stole and lies he told:

From eastern Idaho - based Thoughts on Justice, Problems Ahead For Convicted Former Prosecutor?

Today police officers... executed a search warrant on the home of former City prosecutor Kimball Mason... Mason had previously indicated to investigators that law enforcement had recovered all the property that he had taken... The Idaho Falls Chief of Police stated that officers had recovered several firearms pursuant to the search warrant. Some of the guns that were recovered were among those Mason indicated were no longer in his possession...

Not the sort of thing you'd want discovered by, say, a judge who'll decide whether you serve half a year or one to five. The blogger / prosecutor at Thoughts on Justice explains how Idaho's system of retained jurisdiction or "riders" works, and shares just how he feels about other prosecutors who go dirty:

(I)t shows that even after he was found out, Mason remained arrogant, unrepentant, greedy, etc., etc., etc. He's still pompous enough to think he can outsmart everyone and complete his caper. He's essentially taking a piss on Lady Justice's sandals...

Pungent image, that. It takes a lot of provocation for someone from the Upper Snake River Plain to rise to such language. Kimball Mason's sins are just that provocative.

Update: an eyewitness view of Kimball Mason's sentencing hearing, from IdahoFallz.com.

WA: indefensible, King County style

From the Seattle Times, filed under "Arts and Entertainment":
Attorney's new book takes you to Ridgway's murder trial

Nearly five years ago, police and prosecutors decided they had accumulated enough evidence to arrest Gary L. Ridgway in the Green River killings...

Somebody would need to defend Ridgway. It would be an ugly assignment, because if indeed Ridgway were the Green River Killer, that meant he had murdered 48 women minimum, probably 71 — and maybe even more, starting in the early 1980s.

(Mark) Prothero worked as a public defender... If Ridgway ended up in the public-defender system, Prothero figured he might serve as the lead lawyer, given his expertise analyzing DNA evidence and his designation as one of just a few certified to handle death-penalty cases.

Prothero received a call from his supervisor, telling him it appeared the public defender's office would represent Ridgway. Talk to Ridgway as quickly as possible, the supervisor said. So Prothero did...

Mark Prothero will give a talk on "Defending Gary: Unraveling the Mind of the Green River Killer" at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Elliott Bay Book Co., 101 S. Main St., Seattle; free).

ID: ineffective screw-up of counsel

From the Blaine County paper:

Sarah Johnson seeks appeal - Hearing to determine if murder conviction can be appealed

A court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday in Hailey to determine if Sarah M. Johnson can once more appeal her convictions for the murders of her parents in Bellevue in 2003.

The Idaho Supreme Court dismissed her original appeal in April, ruling that it was filed beyond the legally mandated deadline. Johnson filed court papers later in April seeking reinstatement of her appeal rights on the grounds that her attorneys screwed up in filing the appeal too late.

I believe that the reporter must have taken the term "screwed up" from the pleadings.

June 01, 2006


Mariam at Accident Prone sticks up for herself and all her public defender colleagues:

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone-it, people like me, they just don't respect me

And hey, we like making out just as much as other attorneys - maybe even more ;)

Friday (or late Thursday) random 11

My wife and son are spending the weekend back in Twin Falls, Idaho (motto: Don't Jump!). Therefore, you my regular readers - now numbering in the double digits - are in for more posts from me than you know what to do with (clicking away quickly to someplace more worthwhile or fun is always an option).

Sugarlight - X
Mercury - Kathleen Edwards
Incense and Peppermints - The Strawberry Alarm Clock
You'll Never Know - Kim Richey
Tomorrow is Such a Long Time - Nick Drake
President of What - Death Cab for Cutie
The Goat - The Williams Brothers
The Night Descending - Iron and Wine
Mimi on the Beach - Jane Siberry
Me and That Train - Patty Larkin
Why Can't We Be Friends - War

Violence against lawyers: intramurals

Former district attorney arrested after fight in court

A former Terrebonne Parish district attorney was arrested Friday after allegedly attacking another lawyer in court during an argument over legal fees, authorities said.

(Anthony) Lewis said, (Douglas) Greenburg called him a "jackass." "I said 'What did you call me?' " Lewis said. "He said, 'Jackass.' I said 'Your mother is a jackass.' Then he went off."

Lewis, 60, said Greenburg reached across the conference table, grabbed the lapel of his suit jacket and started pushing him around, knocking him over. Lewis said his head hit the attorneys' table, causing a momentary blackout, and he landed on his back...

Another view from NOLA.com.

Both lawyers were cited for contempt. No Boudreaux or Thibodeaux were injured in the melee, though Lewis did complain of a pain in the fracas.


Two grammatical things I like about Juvy:

- my clients' use of the word "hella."

- everybody's use of the word "drama."

Today in court (juvenile proceedings are open to the public here), one of my clients spun around and shot the gallery a classic pissed-off-15-year-old-girl scowl. His Honor ordered, "turn around, Ms. X, and turn off the drama."

"Drama" is a contributing factor in most of my female clients' cases, and in many of the boys'.

Off-topic: port in a storm

About the Port of Olympia, "one more special message to go / and then I'm done and I can go home":

I never got a call from an arrested protester. From a guy protesting his DUI, sure, but not from an anti-war protester. I drove past the docks after work last night to see the Pomeroy and some of the people gathering for the "die-in." Today the ship's set sail.

In the end, the Strykers got loaded thanks to ILWU Local 47, and my new town made the map as this year's hot destination for peace tourism. Viva Oly!

The Tacoma paper had a good wrap-up article on the protests:

Military use of Olympia’s port collides with its pacifists

Some people on my side of the political divide were uneasy with this particular bit of protest theater. As one non-violent blogger says in "The Price Of War Protesting":

Protesters are always quick to point out the collateral damage done by war... The problem is they don't seem to think about the collateral damage they are causing.

Others commented on Daily Kos:

We can't allow Kos or his readers to be associated in any way with this kind of action. Interfering with military operations or logistics is a good way to get good men and women serving in our military hurt or killed... Furthermore, we can't give knuckle-dragging RedStaters the opportunity to pin the "anti-troops" label on us. And if you really think it's a good idea to deny critical supplies to our forces...I'm not sure it's just a label.

These people have stepped across the line from criticism of the leadership of our nation's military to interfering in the operations of the military itself. ...(T)his act is so futile as to be effectively a symbolic effort. I don't think we should be shy about openly sharing the sentiment behind their action...but we would do ourselves a great disservice to support the action itself.

Let them starve, without ammunition, body armor and medical supplies. Great thinking!!!! This will win votes and stop the war!!! This sort of depravity makes us all look bad. Sick and stupid.

There. Now back to the public defender gossip (but not before giving the last word to my Pugetopolis neighbor E. Spat).