December 30, 2008

Elements of style

Today I was in detention spending a pleasant hour with a client barely into the teen years, a child really, facing a scary felony accusation. This young person was far enough into the system to use a phrase like being on the outs, yet still innocent enough to use the word "hecka" in place of "hella," because hell's a swear word. My kid clients surprise me and impress me.

December 26, 2008

A present for my client's mom

It's Boxing Day, a good day for returned gifts and charitable acts. I'm in the courthouse parking lot after detention hearings, tapping away on my cellphone. I couldn't get every kid released today. After court, one of my client's mothers sat me down and we talked. She told me that she got the call on Christmas morning: the cops had picked up her son. She's happy, and not for a bad reason. Just now I watched her walking toward detention, to see her boy for the first time since he ran two months ago.

December 23, 2008

FL: life after Shirk


The next phase for White

After 34 years in one office, it’s not an easy question to answer. Public Defender Bill White has had the “What are you going to do next?” question following him around since Matt Shirk was elected as the next Public Defender for the Fourth Judicial Circuit in November...

“I’ve got an eye toward nonprofit right now,” said White. “There may be an opportunity to work for a nonprofit in an employee capacity.” He has been involved with Take Stock in Children and Communities in Schools of Jacksonville as part of his life outside the courtroom...

December 22, 2008

KS: new p.d., with much to have to overcome

Interesting character study from the Wichita Eagle:

Single mother perseveres to earn law degree - grit and effort anchor her life

Latina Alston is not yet 30. She has three children... She raised the children in poverty all their lives. That's about to change. Latina's story goes beyond absent fathers, food stamps and welfare checks.

People at the Wichita Bar Association know that of their 1,175 members, only eight are African-American - the newest member being Latina. Earlier this month, as Sedgwick County's newest assistant public defender, she helped clear a Wichita man of charges that could have put him in prison for years...

The 180+ comments following the article are interesting, too, in a "what's the matter with Kansas?" sort of way.

Via Legal Blog Watch, with tut-tutting by Carolyn Elefant at no extra charge.

December 19, 2008

OR: buttswatting and the karmic wheel

From the Boregonian:

Prosecutor of bottom-swatting boys is arrested in alleged assault

Debra Markham, a Yamhill County deputy district attorney who made national news in 2007 for prosecuting two McMinnville seventh-graders for swatting the bottoms of girls at their middle school, now faces criminal charges herself. Markham was arrested last month in Lincoln City for allegedly punching her husband in the face during a dispute...

December 16, 2008

Eyes of a child

I finished interviewing my client, and brought his mom in from the lobby to wrap up the appointment.

Instead of sitting back down, my client went over to the windowsill and spent the rest of the session focusing animately on my views of the mountains, the capitol, the traffic and the 7-11.

I'm privileged to represent kids.

Altitude sickness

I just went from the westside Grocery Outlet direct to Bayview Thriftway, and I swear it made me dizzy.

December 13, 2008

ID: D.I.Y., 83702

A time-travelling broadcast sent from my home town in the era of Mutant Pop, courtesy of YouTube and Save vs. Death:

Punk in Boise, Idaho (1985)

A "trip into Boise's cosmic counterculture" unfortunately entitled "Pretty in Punk"... (T)hese kids must have been brave as hell. I'm getting old.

Me too.

Via Boing Boing.

WA: pummelage

The latest in the cavalcade of violence against criminal defense lawyers; up in Snohomish County, this colleague never saw it coming:

See also the Everett Herald, Everett man charged in assault on Lynnwood lawyer - Everett man allegedly punched his former attorney

"The 5 little interns of the county’s PD..."

A bit of doggerel from Jaime the P.D. Intern at Red Red Whine:

I'm more than a little punchy and can barely keep my eyes open. So, in this totally delirious state, I give you The Public Defender's Tale based upon my time at the PD’s office. Yeah, kind of like the Canterbury Tales, but Chaucer I'm not...

December 08, 2008

Calling all commentators

Marketplace, that relentlessly perky radio show with a business slant from American Public Media, wants to know "how the current financial crisis is affecting the work of legal professionals." Have your say at (that is to say, here).


Big firms aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch (see Scott Greenfield's tough love in the Age of Layoffs (by way of Brian Tannebaum)).

Legal aid services and public defenders around the country are preparing for budget cutbacks – right at a time when their services are needed most ( this sounds like a good one for you, Alex - let's join the wave!).

How is the financial crisis hitting the legal industry?

December 04, 2008

UT & VT: "for great justice!"

Vermont v. Brillon news, from Provo's answer to Pravda:

Speedy Trial Law may Bring Greater Justice

Anxious to fulfill its duty to protect the people of Utah, the Attorney General's Office is asking the Supreme Court to fix a speedy trial rule that could allow criminals to avoid prosecution...

The error with the Vermont ruling, according to Assistant Attorney General Ryan Tenney, was that it could allow public defenders to delay trials and block the judicial process. “[This ruling would make the government] lose its ability to prosecute a criminal, based on the ‘unwillingness’ of a public defender to move the case forward,” Tenney said...

I hope that the BYU NewsNet Zoobie who cut and pasted this news release lands that internship with the AG's office, I really do.

December 03, 2008

Live from the courtroom

A moment ago:

Judicial person ( to juvenile's parent): "Your behavior is not appropriate."

Juvenile's parent ( to judicial person): "Neither is yours!"

And the parent left the courtroom, not even in handcuffs.

December 02, 2008

"No offense..."

By David J. Barend, from Exhibit A Boston:

What It’s Like Defending ‘The Guilty’: Thoughts From a Criminal Defense Attorney

“I just don’t see how you can represent these people. I mean, what if someone killed one of your relatives? How would you feel about that?”

“That depends. Are you throwing in-laws into the mix?”

WA: "it's going to be more expensive in the long run"

From the Olympian:

County workers fight for jobs - Speakers say cuts will be detrimental

Six speakers told Thurston County commissioners Monday that proposed job cuts to balance next year's budget carry serious ramifications. The commissioners are considering a proposal to lay off more than 7 percent of the county workforce — nearly 90 full-time-equivalent employees — because of rising costs and lagging revenue.

Under the budget proposal, the Office of Assigned Counsel — also known as public defenders — will lose eight employees and no longer represent indigent clients in Thurston County District Court. They will continue to represent clients charged in Superior Court. Alex Frix, a lawyer in the office, said the county would rely on private attorneys to take over the caseload. The shift could result in lawsuits over inadequate legal counsel, he said...

December 01, 2008

A public defender dog story

What happens when your pup doesn't know the code to your parents' house alarm, from Preaching to the Choir:

3 cops greeted us on our driveway. (I'm such a PD, my first instinct on seeing the cops was to tell them they couldn't come in to the house!) They insisted they wanted to go in first and clear the house, but I insisted all they would find was a 16 pound cocker spaniel...

November 30, 2008

A budget-balancing proposal

From your friends at Kansas Defenders:

If the state doesn't want to pay for indigent defense, it needs to prosecute fewer people (or at least fewer poor people)...

Purissima Olympia

We three went downtown today to admire the singing Christmas tree.

This is the only holiday concert I've attended where the carols contained the word "Beelzebub" (the kids started the show with a medley of Queen tunes. Seriously.)

November 25, 2008

WA: new RPC 1.8 (m) - the air up there, state bar version

Yodelling Llama and I went to the same CLE, and both were a bit chagrined to learn that most contracts for conflict defender services in this state are now considered unethical:

Now, I suspect this result of RPC 1.8(m) is an unintended consequence of poor drafting, and no one should really be too worried about losing his license just by getting paid to provide indigent defense services...

...because as p.d.'s we truly do not have enough to watch out for already. At the CLE, this rule was referred to as something along the lines of, "public policy preference posing as professional responsibility requirement" (fine sentiment though it may be).

November 24, 2008

FL: perils of politicians as public defenders

Out of Jax, Fla, political follies and fallout at the courthouse, and fun lawyer quotes too, courtesy of Channel 12 and Channel 4:

Public Defenders Featured In Oscar-Winning Documentary Fired

"I believe Mr. Shirk and his cronies, if they work to their maximum potential and use all of their talents, may achieve mediocrity," McGuiness told First Coast News.

New Public Defender Fires 10 Lawyers

"Well, Mr. Shirk had not yet reached pre-K when many of these attorneys were trying cases already. I think he is uneasy around those with skill and experience," said McGuiness.

The documentary is "Murder On A Sunday Morning." The lawyer quoted is Patrick McGuinness. The newly-elected lawyer is Matt Shirk (suitable last name, that).

Update from the Florida Times-Union: Public defender-elect fires 10 seasoned attorneys

November 20, 2008

Life in the therapeutic state

Heard today in juvenile drug court...

"We're here to support you, even if that means we have to lock you up."

... as my long conversion from drug court agnostic to drug court atheist continues.

Bonus link goes to Drug Court Justice: Experiences in a Juvenile Drug Court, by Kevin Whiteacre, Ph.D.:

Drug Court Justice takes an in-depth look at a Midwestern juvenile drug treatment court. Through observations and interviews conducted while serving as the contracted program evaluator, Kevin Whiteacre investigates how denial, surveillance, coercion, accountability, and definitions of success operate and interact in the juvenile drug court environment, and how they intertwine with institutional needs and authority structures. His findings suggest that some drug court practices may expose participants to potential harms that until now have been largely ignored in studies of drug courts. He concludes with suggestions for reducing the potential harms of juvenile drug courts.

Maybe I can get our court to order a copy.

November 19, 2008


From the AP:

Ethics dilemma for lawyers when inmates seek death

John Delaney faced the toughest moment of his legal career - his condemned client wanted to drop his appeals and die by injection, an act Delaney opposed and had been trained to try to prevent. "What do you say?" asked Delaney, a public defender in northern Kentucky who represented Marco Allen Chapman.

It's a question that has arisen 131 times since states resumed executions in 1977, and each time it leaves defense lawyers struggling against their training to act in the best interest of their clients and justice...

Attorneys are required to follow the client's wishes or have themselves removed from the case, said Michael Mello, a Vermont Law School professor who teaches ethics and death penalty law. "Their hands are pretty well tied," Mello said. "These are the cases that haunt you. This is the most hideous of cases."

That's how Gus Cahill felt when his client, Keith Eugene Wells, told him he wanted to die. Wells was convicted of beating a couple to death in 1990 in Idaho. He went through the mandatory appeals, then decided to waive any remaining legal options and was lethally injected in 1994. "I really liked Keith," said Cahill, a public defender in Boise. "You're just thinking, 'Oh, my God, I feel so sorry for being part of what Keith wanted to do...'"

I knew Gus from my Ada County p.d. time, and look up to him still. Keith Wells' choice had to have put him in a horrible bind.

I wish John Delaney well. Marco Allen Chapman is set to die this Friday night.

November 18, 2008

WA: manicure, pedicure, judicure

I'm still bummed out about work seven different ways, but today the Public Defender Crisis™ was good for a bitter little laugh. From Nicole Brodeur in the Seattle Times:

Short-order justice is served Among the trims in King County Executive Ron Sims' proposed 2009 budget is a reduction in the number of public defenders — those who fight in court for those who can't

If Sims' cuts go through, each half-time lawyer will be responsible for 725 of the expedited felonies. That's an hour and 20 minutes per client... I've had nail appointments that lasted longer than that.

Via Trial Ad Notes

November 17, 2008

Gideon strumpet

Scott at Simple Justice sticks up for the Rodney Dangerfields of the bar:

The Vast Mystery of Public Defenders

There is no mystery surrounding public defenders. The only mystery is how lawyers outside the practice of criminal law have managed not to notice these problems for decades, and how PDs have made Herculean efforts to fill the void we've left for them...

Thank you for that. Speaking as one of these mysterious p.d. strumpets, I hope that everyone with a bar license might read Scott's post.

November 16, 2008

Planning your next CLE?

Consider holding it in your state capitol building:
It's where I spent Friday, courtesy of the Washington Defender Association and OPD. Funky acoustics, uplifting surroundings.

Hit points

Like me, the dark public defender of the Sith has been down. But then he got some good news:

I've been promoted to a level 3 attorney. Someone asked me what this means and I explained that a level 3 attorney has +1 damage against a level 2 attorney in direct battle, and has immunity from a level 1 attorney...

"The picture is not pretty, and it's about to get uglier"

From Legal Ethics Forum:

The Growing Public Defender Crisis

See the comments, too. I propose a new model rule: it shall be presumptively unethical for any member of academia to call any lawyer "public pretender."

Via The Faculty Lounge.

November 15, 2008

Nation's in recession and what do we get?

Gideon's calling for a different sort of bailout.

Meanwhile, the Great Fringed One weighs in: Gerry Spence's blog.

November 13, 2008

Juvy blues

Light linking and posting this week. At the moment I'm extraordinarily bummed out about juvenile justice, and not just because Apache County, Arizona is prosecuting an 8-year-old for premeditated murder. This week I'm feeling like a collaborator, not in the pop psychology team-building sense, but in the Vichy French sense. My advocacy has done little to avoid some rotten outcomes for my kid clients.

Consequently, I'm grasping at any positive news I can find. Like this, from DOJ:

Justice Department Study Dispels Myths About Girls' Delinquency

Which leads to DOJ Girls' Delinquency webpage, featuring a stock photo of a j.d. whom many, many of my 16 and 17 year old clients would be totally into:The Center for Children and Youth Justice seems to be doing a couple of good things as well.

Erskine also had a feel-good moment on the job. I will again some time.

November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Veterans's / Armistice / Remembrance Day regards to all, particularly to the people of Fort Lewis.This year's holiday is memorable for my little family, as it's the first year that my wife has worked on-base there. "They also serve..."

November 09, 2008

MN: "my student loans are 40 percent of my monthly income"

From Minnesota Public Radio:

Public defenders moonlight to pay off school debt

The Minnesota Public Defender's office will ask the Legislature for about $20 million for the next biennium. Earlier this year, the office had to lay off attorneys... The office wants to hire back attorneys and try to raise salaries. For some Minnesota public defenders, getting a raise might allow them to stop moonlighting...

November 08, 2008

Leaving the assembly line

From the New York Times:

Citing Rising Workload, Public Lawyers Reject Cases

“Right now a lot of public defenders are starting to stand up and say, ‘No more: We can’t ethically handle this many cases...'”

November 06, 2008

NV: office space

From the LV Sun, by Tom Gorman, photo by Leila Navidi:

Long arm of the law wouldn’t fit in his office - Public defender thrives on job that’s part tough love

The small, windowless office where public defender Ben Saxe works isn’t much bigger than a jail cell...

ID & TX: things looking up for 300+ Idaho prisoners

From the Houston Chronicle:

Idaho ends contract with GEO-run Texas prison

The Idaho Department of Correction has terminated its contract with private prison company The GEO Group and will move the roughly 305 Idaho inmates currently housed at a GEO-run facility in Texas to a private prison in Oklahoma...

November 04, 2008


The 44th President of the United States

A change is gonna come

Have a happy Election Day.

October 30, 2008

More prison doggies

From tonight's CBS news:

Nine Colorado prisons have enacted a program which allows inmates to train dogs... (T)hese canines have helped in the rehabilitation of the prisoners...

October 28, 2008

Hvala lepa, kraljica Sara!

One thing I'll say for Sarah Palin: she's introduced a whole new generation to Tito the Builder:Good old Tito. Governor Palin on the other hand is reminding me a bit of Ceca:(inspired by Charles Mudede at Slog)

(Bonus link goes to Cafe Turco and the stray dogs of Belgrade - like the stray cats of Sarajevo, I miss those mutts.)

Bridge to somewhere

From the International Bridges to Justice blog:

Faces of IBJ: ISLP Volunteer Leslie Rosenberg

This September, I took a leave from my job as an assistant state public defender in the Office of the Minnesota State Public Defender to volunteer with IBJ in China...

October Cambodia Training

The IBJ Fellow in Cambodia, Ouk Vandeth, recently conducted a training session for criminal defenders...

October 27, 2008

New blog: Incorrigible Dicta

Via Mostly Plants, welcome Incorrigible Dicta, with "Platitudes and Diatribes from the Best Defense Money Can’t Buy."

It's a new blog to me at least. With three posts in its first month, it's calling out for more members of the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel ServicesPublic Defender Division to become contributors. Any volunteers?

October 23, 2008

"We few, we happy few"

A cool mental image of the job we do, from this tribute to Ross Alderman and the Public Defender’s Office, in the Nashville City Paper:

(W)e do give out one real award that we call the Order of St. Crispin. This award is presented to someone who, like the English at Agincourt, has fought difficult and battles but is too often overlooked for the work they have done...

October 22, 2008

Don't know where he gets it from

First attempt at posting from a mobile phone using Google Android:

I've come out of court, and I'm listening to a mom berate her son for not doing anger management classes. "F*ck you, you're a bad son," she explains. As he's walking away, she adds, "Assh*le."

October 21, 2008

This is what we call The Muppet Show

From Song of the Soul:

For those of you who wonder how a muppety, giggly girl like myself can be an attorney, check out this video... Things to note: - me shushing my client like a school teacher - my muppet-like facial expressions - my bond argument being cut off...

Best friends

After that last post about an inanimate object, these two wanted me to remember who my real friends are:(from a Sunday drive to the new Centralia dog park)

Say hello to my little friend!

I'm not what you'd call an early adapter - I only got my first cellphone in 2005. But as for my second cellphone, now that's something I've coveted (or conveted). Here it is:T-Mobile G1 Google Android web-surfing MP3 anti-boredom-waiting-around-the-courthouse device, welcome.

Cipher in the snow

Sarah Palin and I graduated from the University of Idaho on the same day in 1987. According to this nifty article from the LA Times...

Sarah Palin's college years left no lasting impression - In the five years of her collegiate career, spanning four universities in three states, Palin left behind few traces. Not many professors or students even remember her

... she was about as marked for greatness back then as I was. Difference is, only one of us has delusions about being fit to lead the free world.

October 20, 2008

Welcome Olyblog readers!

Hi, neighbors! I've never felt so conveted!

If you're curious, I like this judicial candidate
(he's the one on the right):
I've watched Sam at work and in court since I moved to Thurston County. I know that he will be a thoughtful and respectful judge.

October 19, 2008

ID: say amen, somebody

From the Bonner County Daily Bee:

Public defender an outspoken advocate for 'sacred rights'

Izzy Robertson... has served as the county's public defender for about a year, continuing in a field of law that she has practiced since 1997. "This is my calling – and I say that in a very spiritual manner," she said. "This is where my joy meets the world."

Her comment, coupled with a soft voice and gentle demeanor, might make the casual observer think that Robertson could be a pushover in the courtroom... There is no mistaking that, behind the calm exterior, the attorney sees herself as a warrior on the front lines of a battle for the rights of the accused. "Our 14th Amendment rights are sacred," she said...

Above Lawyer's Canyon

Back from Lawyer Creek

The story of the original Lawyer is here.

October 16, 2008

WA: “drug court saved my life”

From the New York Times:

Courts Give Addicts a Chance to Straighten Out

It was not your usual courtroom scene. For one thing, the judge choked up as he described one woman’s struggle with opiate addiction after her arrest for forging prescriptions...

Now she was graduating — along with 23 other addicts who entered drug court instead of prison. Prosecutors and public defenders applauded when she was handed her certificate; a policewoman hugged her, and a child shouted triumphantly, “Yeah, Mamma!”

October 13, 2008

New haircut boy

Today in a Puget Sound courtroom -

Prosecutor: "Nice haircut"

Me: "Yeah, I'm going back to Idaho"

Prosecutor: "Then you should've got a mullet"

October 11, 2008

CA: an old joke

From the Bakersfield Californian:

Felony trials down, hung juries up

“When a DA gets a dog, he can take it to the pound,” the saying goes. “When a public defender gets a dog, he can only smile and say, ‘Nice doggie, nice doggie.’”

October 09, 2008

"Take a look at the lawman beating up the wrong guy"

Just finished watching the US debut of "Life on Mars", and pleasantly, it didn't suck. And I remembered most of the soundtrack from the first time around. 1973 - what a time to be impressionable. Check it out, Thursdays at 9 on ABC.

October 07, 2008

CA: cut therapeutic courts now, pay later

From the Sacramento Bee:

Mental Health Court makes strides, but funds drying up

Sacramento County's Mental Health Court is diverting mentally ill, habitual, nonviolent offenders away from a cycle that spins them through jail and back on the street... Mental health court is saving millions in criminal justice costs, as it has in Santa Clara County, supporters say. And it could save much more.

"We're taking people who, through no fault of their own, can't function as a regular part of society and we're helping them," said Siena Riffia, a Sacramento County public defender who works in Mental Health Court. But just as the new court is hitting stride with stable graduates in school and on the job, the new state budget has virtually gutted the whole effort...

October 06, 2008

WA: clean your lint filter!

Why I met with my clients outside today, from the Olympian:

Fire closes family, juvenile courts for day

Thurston County family and juvenile courts are closed after a dryer fire filled the building with smoke this morning...

October 05, 2008

CA: the man in the white hat

From the Bakersfield Californian:

Retirement not an adjournment for ‘top gun’ attorney

His boss calls him the “Top Gun” attorney at the Kern County Public Defender’s office... Veteran trial attorney Michael Lukehart gave his last closing argument as a Kern County deputy public defender Monday. Known for his soft-spoken, no-frills style in court, Lukehart retired Friday, six days short of his 55th birthday and nearly 27 years after joining the office...

October 04, 2008

ID: nothing pretextual to see here, move along

From the Times-News:

Man arrested for littering in Twin Falls

Twin Falls police arrested a homeless man for littering after he allegedly shucked the plastic wrapper from a pack of cigarettes to the ground...

And they all moved away from him there on the Group W bench...

October 02, 2008

FL: Scop goes to juvy

Scoplaw may feel like he's being sent down to the minors, but really, I think it's going to be a good move:

(T)his really should be an egoless job, or, more properly, your ego should be made to serve good ends. You fight for your clients on so many different levels, trying to redeem something for them; even if the legal case is hopeless, the people who are accused never are...

October 01, 2008

September 30, 2008

CA: police encounter etiquette for kids

From the San Jose Mercury News:

New guide offers advice to teens on criminal behavior, cops

Hoping it will find a place along with "Animal Farm" and "Julius Caesar" in high school kids' backpacks, the San Jose Independent Police Auditor is coming out with an updated edition of the "Students' Guide to Police Practices." (pdf file)

IPA Director Barbara Attard and Police Chief Rob Davis hope the free 36-page pamphlet will help teens learn about how to make the right choices about criminal behavior — whether as a victim or as a potential perpetrator — and how to deal with cops...

MO: p.d. system "on verge of collapse"

It's the swaths that'll kill ya, from the Springfield News-Leader:

Public defenders to reject some cases - Overwhelmed attorneys will turn away swath of clients

On Wednesday, public defenders in Springfield and elsewhere in the state will begin to refuse cases. People accused of violating the terms of their probation could be ineligible for a defender. And indigent defendants charged with certain collections and traffic crimes won't get a public attorney. The change will mark the first time since the birth of the Missouri Public Defender System that defenders will turn away whole swaths of clients...

Via the Missouri Bar (with podcast)

Update: from KSPR, You Have the Right to an Effective Attorney … Maybe?

September 25, 2008

Guantánamo prosecutor quits over Brady violations

From the Washington Post:

Guantanamo Prosecutor Quits, Says Evidence Was Withheld

A military prosecutor involved in war crimes cases here has quit his position, citing ethical concerns about his office's failure to turn over exculpatory material to attorneys for an Afghan detainee... Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld... (laid) out his concerns about the case and procedures in the military prosecutor's office...

"My ethical qualms about continuing to serve as a prosecutor relate primarily to the procedures for affording defense counsel discovery," wrote Vandeveld in his filing. "I am highly concerned, to the point that I believe I can no longer serve as a prosecutor at the Commissions, about the slipshod, uncertain 'procedure' for affording defense counsel discovery..."

September 24, 2008

NY: 5 boroughs, one p.d. blog

An addition to the blogroll, from some real "Raising the Bar" p.d.'s:

Five Borough Defense - New York City Public Defenders

How can you tell they're real NYC p.d's? Exhibit A (which does not include my wimpy Idaho-person asterisks):

Another client coming to court every few weeks for a year because some *ssh*le called the cops. Client loses money, promotions. The DA calls at 9pm the night before trial and asks if the client wants an ACD. Client does not want an ACD. Then, on the day of trial, the DA dismisses...

September 22, 2008

WA & ID: writing about jury duty

Seattle writer Kelley Eskridge blogs about voir dire (part one) (part two), then gets fan mail from a criminal defense lawyer. Good stuff.

See also Idaho blogger Rob's jury duty perspective.

ID & TX: "Idaho should step up to the plate and bring their prisoners home"

Probing article on the Idaho archipelago, from Andrea Jackson of the Twin Falls Times-News -

Families feel loss as out-of-state prison population grows

- and the same article picked up by the Houston Chronicle:

Idaho's out-of-state prison population grows

Pam Drashner visited her husband every weekend in prison, until she was turned away one day because he wasn't there. He had been quietly transferred from Boise to a private prison in Sayre, Okla. She never saw him again.

In July, she went to the Post Office to pick up his ashes, mailed home in a box. He died of a traumatic brain injury in Oklahoma, allegedly assaulted by another inmate. David Drashner was one of hundreds of male inmates Idaho authorities have sent to private prisons in other states. About 10 percent of Idaho's inmates are now out-of-state...

September 21, 2008

"'Peace Corps 1962: turned village over to Communists' ... Who's gonna hire me?"

The Cougars actually won this weekend. To mark the occasion, here's John Candy singing the Wazzu fight song, from "Volunteers."

I was living on the Palouse at the time the movie came out, and a few of my law school classmates labeled me, "Tom Tuttle from Tacoma." For the life of me, I don't know the reason why.

(Thanks to Ken Levine)

NV: MD or PD, "you help people that need help"

From the Nevada Appeal:

From medicine to law, new State Public Defender is just trying to help

For 17 years, Diane Crow has worked for the State Public Defender's Office in Carson City handling everything from trespassing to capital murder cases. On Thursday, Gov. Jim Gibbons appointed Crow to a four year term as head of the office...

"I've always seen this as a service oriented profession," she said. "It's just like medicine. You help people that need help."

September 20, 2008

ID: spill soda, go to the big house!

Huzzah, my home town made Harper's:

Unexpected Consequences from a Mug of Soda

The latest episode showing the Justice Department’s more than curious notions of justice can be found this week in the pages of the Idaho Statesman. Natalie Walters is now facing prosecution that could put her in prison for six months. Her crime? She poured a cup of Diet Coke on a counter in a Veteran’s Administration cafeteria...

See also Simple Justice, Are the Guidelines the same for Diet Coke?

September 18, 2008

Bearing witness

Something remarkable and sad from The Urban Monk:

Why I Watch People Die

I cannot escape the fact that not far away a man is being taken into a room, strapped down and killed. And he may deserve it or he may not, but he is there not for the lives he took, but because he was the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I know that, and it terrifies me, and it will not leave me alone...

"Magical animals walk among us"

From Dominic Holden at Slog:

Tracking Down Those Unicorns

Last week White House appointee John Walters claimed on C-SPAN that finding people in jail for “first-time nonviolent possession of marijuana... is like finding a unicorn... because it doesn’t exist...” (I)t didn’t take me long to find credible people willing to vouch for the existence of first-time, non-violent marijuana offenders — excuse me, unicorns...

"Circumstances have conspired," but in a good way

Ms. Injustice Anywhere, I'm glad that you're back to blogging.

(and thanks for the birthday greeting, too)

September 16, 2008

WA: "sweatshop defense" and bad breaks in ole Vantucky

A long disjointed post from Washblog on three strikes, two-bit justice and one messed-up life:

A 3-Strikes Story: Abusive Foster Care, Deadly Streets, Broken Public Defense. WE CAN DO BETTER!

If nothing else disproves the 3-Strikes assumption that people convicted of three crimes are irredeemable, it is this response, seen in Schawn
(Cruze)'s case - and also with other Washington's 3-Strikers - of rising above hopelessness, accepting responsibility, and striving to realize his own potential under devastating circumstances...

September 15, 2008

Cannabis counsel pro and con

The gentle herb giveth:

(I)t's ok if you can’t afford private counsel. The often abused Public Defenders are among the very best lawyers anywhere. Their standards are high; their training is excellent. The sometimes higher paid members of the “private bar” often call on them for advice. So that’s a good place to start. You have to judge lawyers, their abilities, and, perhaps more importantly, their interest in you and your marijuana case for yourself...

The gentle herb taketh away:

Few people can afford to go the distance with the Justice Department, and are conducted to their confinement by the Judas Goats of the public defender service, pawns of the prosecutors, understaffed, and paid on the basis of supposed merit by the judges, most of whom are also ex-prosecutors...

I've never heard "Judas Goats" applied to our kind before, particularly not to purebred AFPD's. I'll add the term to my list of public pretender curses.

September 13, 2008

RIP David Foster Wallace

There will be droughts and days inundated
unveilings free from saturation
departures raised with no masquerading.
There will be teachers that die by their own hand
pundits that push headlong for atonement
friends and followers devoted to living.
There will be watchers that plot from in confines
and those committed to society's circles
unwary cogs with no cadence or virtue.
There will be right, there will be wrong.

Jay Farrar, "Medicine Hat"

Right at least to wait 'til the end of Suicide Prevention Week; wrong to leave the wife to cut down the body. Black humored genius, tormented bastard, rest in peace.

September 11, 2008

GA: "the inequity drives me"

From the Dalton Daily Citizen:

Public defenders passionate about work

Public defender Betsey Flack said she doesn’t mind the workload and what some in the legal profession may consider the position’s low pay. To Flack, protecting people’s legal rights is critical.

“Ensuring that they are treated fairly is what I see as my job,” the North Carolina native said. “When it comes to people’s liberties, I don’t think there is anything more important or more serious...”

Meanwhile, from the same newspaper:

Public defender office concerned about budget cuts

September 08, 2008

"What are my options under juvenile law?"

I feel bad for the kid, but still, it's been too long since I've linked to a public pretender post:

Right now my stepson is on home detention and awaiting arraignment on the 18th at which time we will have to settle for a public defender as we cannot afford a lawyer...

Free legal advice from strange lawyers who don't know you or your case - since 1995, more trusted than asking your own p.d.

September 07, 2008

Weekend worriors

Public defender Amb Imb wishes he didn't have to go into the office on weekends, while public defender Ken lays out one danger associated with the practice: going to the restroom and locking yourself out of your office, which happens to contain your wallet, car keys, cell phone, brief case, and badge (parental advisory: Ken says f*ck more than once).

I didn't go in this weekend, but do I have a doctor's note. I'm probably the oldest person around who still gets ear infections; antibiotics are proceeding nicely.

September 06, 2008

ID: "start winning your case at the preliminary hearing"

Back in the home state, they're hanging on to one of those "quaint" checks in the system of checks and balances (one that Idaho has and Washington State doesn't, by the way), from Idaho Criminal Defense Blog:

Preliminary Hearings Safe In Idaho

I just returned from a meeting of the Idaho Criminal Rules Committee during which we considered a question posed by a Magistrate Judge: Why do we waste valuable court time with preliminary hearings? Couldn't we just eliminate them and reduce the court's work? Sure - and maybe we should just get rid of those nagging, time consuming jury trials!

September 04, 2008

ID: tears of a clown

From the Spokesman-Review:

Mistrial declared after tearful opening argument

A prosecutor’s emotional and tearful opening argument in a domestic violence case prompted a Kootenai County judge to declare a mistrial Wednesday. First District Judge Fred Gibler initially assumed Deputy Prosecutor Shane Greenbank’s voice was cracking because the prosecutor was “possibly forgetting some witnesses’ names.” Then, when Greenbank asked for a tissue, Gibler “assumed it was an allergy.”

But as Greenbank continued... Gibler became concerned the prosecutor was emotionally involved in the case and that it might influence jurors, according to minutes from Wednesday’s trial of Grant Gosch on domestic violence charges. Gibler said Greenbank “crossed the line...” Defense attorney Staci Anderson sought the mistrial... “The state was crying during its opening statements and asking for a tissue,” Anderson pointed out. “If Mr. Greenbank is not ready to handle this case, then possibly another prosecutor can come down...”

The judge said Greenbank’s “emotional involvement with the case was affecting the jury...” “In recent case the Court of Appeals has singled out the Kootenai County Prosecutor’s Office for appealing to the passions or prejudice of the jury,” Gibler said. “The entire system has a right to expect the prosecutor to conduct their case in a non-prejudicial manner.”

Via Huckleberries Online.

Support criminal defense in Cambodia

This looks like a good cause, from

End indefinite detention for 80 regular Cambodians

If you were suspected of a crime, would you be treated fairly? In Cambodia... the likely answer is no. This project gives 80 long-term detainees a trained defense lawyer and their day in court...

Check out the Cambodia archive (with great photos) of International Bridges to Justice's blog.

September 03, 2008

Juicebox for the Holy Ghost

So I've scavenged my wife's Sirius radio from our trade-in, and popped it in the pick-up, and tonight I'm driving around with the boy listening to the Kids Stuff channel, when this whimsical bit o' Seattle sound comes on: here's Mark Lanegan with "Sneakers."

Children's tunes by ex - Screaming Trees: a most awesome concept. (unfortunately, Youtube embedding is disabled on this one, but you can watch it here)

September 02, 2008

ID: "suprise, suprise"

Spell-check's broken on the KMVT website:

A suprise in court today

A man who faces 1st degree murder charges in the death of an 18-year old Twin Falls resident was back in court... John McElhiney's court appearance was short and took a surprising turn... Current attorney, Marilyne Paul and county prosecutor Grant Loebs met with Judge Bevan before the hearing took place. Once court was in session Judge Bevan said their
(sic) was clearly a irreconcilable conflict between the defendant and public defenders office...

In other Twin Falls murder news:

Transgender Iranian refugee charged with murder in shooting

A man previously described as a woman was rolled into a Twin Falls courtroom on Friday in a blue wheelchair to face a murder charge...

August 30, 2008

Crazy 'bout a Mercury

This week the beloved VW wagon broke down for the last time. Today we traded it in (with a few tears from the boy) for this fine machine:It's a 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid. Union-made in the USA for the lunch-buckets, reduced fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions for the tree-huggers, it's the perfect ride for a couple of forty-something northwest Democrats.

Mercury Blues - David Lindley

If I had money tell you what I'd do
I'd go downtown and buy a Mercury or two
I'm crazy 'bout a Mercury, I'm crazy 'bout a Mercury
I'm gonna buy me a Mercury and cruise it up and down the road

August 28, 2008

On having been poor

Insight and empathy drawn from personal experience and pain, from Woman of the Law:


It's taken me almost five years, but I am finally parting with my fat clothes... I still have the anxiety, that if I throw them out I have no safety blanket, I'll have nothing to wear, no way to get new clothing, and I'm just throwing money away. I cling to these things because I can't take those things for granted. I'm always afraid of being poor again...

Don't skip the comments.

Bonus link goes to John Scalzi on being poor.

August 27, 2008

LBJ 100

Happy 100th birthday, Lyndon Baines Johnson.
(I'm probably the only lawyer in my office whose house has a framed portrait of the man, right next to the one of JFK, both inherited from my Great Society Democrat father-in-law. RIP, LBJ.)

August 26, 2008

Feige rising

From the ABA Journal:

The Defense Rests

David Feige has come a long way from his days as a New York City public defender. But the Hollywood wunderkind seems to have a hard time leaving it all behind. All you need to do is ask, and he’ll tell you that the criminal defense system is broken and members of his former profession are never portrayed accurately. Feige is hoping the public will finally get the real picture with his new television drama, called Raising the Bar...

Yes, but, if only the lawyers in the promo weren't all so damn telegenic...

August 25, 2008

We accept Blondie, one of us!

Great news from Blonde Justice:

Two weeks from now, I will once again have my dream job. Public defender.

Welcome back, Blonde One.

NY: "tattooed bikers, a dog's best friends"

Uplifting tales of tattooed Americans helping animals in need, from the New York Times:

Heaven’s Angels

Clad in leather, inked to the hilt in skulls and dragons, with images of bloodied barbed wire looped about their necks, they shared something else — a peculiar tenderness for animals, and the intensity needed to act on the animals’ behalf when people abuse them...

About a year ago, they took up the name Rescue Ink, and now work full time investigating cases of animal abuse...

Nothing peculiar about that; admirable in fact.

August 23, 2008

Through the looking-glass

Took my 9-year-old to Sand in the City today, but not before taking a wrong turn through Hempfest first.

When it comes to 9-year-olds (and others), Rick Steves has a point:

"It shouldn’t be traumatizing for a person who is inclined to agree with the decriminalization movement to walk through Hempfest..."

(no photos - I'm not a narc)

August 22, 2008

53 minutes left for Friday cat blogging

Someone noticed that these two hadn't made an appearance in the blog lately. Here they are.

Speaking of t-shirts...

Good news from Legal Profession Blog:

Informal Attire Not Unethical

The alleged misconduct? First, the lawyer visited a police station to interview two officers wearing a t-shirt with "Let the f***ing begin" across the front. His intent was to "communicate to the police officers his general feeling that his client was at a disadvantage in the judicial system by virtue of the police misconduct..."

August 20, 2008

WA: sueño rebelde

Today an accused teenager stood before the court commissioner, wearing a t-shirt similar to this one:Some days I get such a rise out of living here in Lotus Land.

Bonus link: commodify your dissent at The Che Store!

August 16, 2008

W signed it!


Loan-Forgiveness Program Becomes Law - Legal aid attorneys, state and local prosecutors and public defenders benefit

President Bush on Friday signed into law legislation expanding a student loan forgiveness program for students who become legal aid lawyers, state or local prosecutors and public defenders...

ID: re-entry

A good series of articles about the challenges of being on the outs, by Melissa Davlin of the Twin Falls Times-News:

A new deal: Part one - Preparing for parole: Is this chance different for convicted meth dealer?

At 48, Daniel David Arnold didn't have a lot to his name... "I'll be 49 in July and I've wasted over 25 years of my life on drugs and alcohol," he said in February, sitting in his blue prison uniform... He wants more from his life, and there's a chance he could get it. On April 9, Arnold was released on parole from the work center, given another opportunity to live a sober life...

The first freedoms - Former inmate encounters obstacles, joys of life on the outside

Snow fell quietly on Dan Arnold as he stood outside US Bank... He had been a free man for less than an hour. He had no cash, no phone, no car of his own - just a check that was no use if he couldn't cash it. Arnold put his hands in his pockets, shifting and looking at the ground. He had spent much of the past decade incarcerated, and now he was on his own...

Safety in routine - Parolee remains wary of people, places with potential to drag him back to drugs

Dan Arnold is on parole after spending four years in prison and in jail for dealing meth in Canyon County. After his release from the Twin Falls Community Work Center in April, he decided to stay in Magic Valley. Make a life here. Try to stay clean. It hasn't been easy, but he has had some help. So far, he is on the right track...

August 14, 2008

Listen up, lawmakers

It's in the New York Times...

The Case for Juvenile Courts

Transferring juvenile offenders many of whom are accused of nonviolent crimes into the adult system is not making anyone safer. it must be true.

August 13, 2008

"I believe detention's in the future"

As a juvenile criminal defense lawyer, I can't help but feel all warm and fuzzy about Lil Derrick's 4th birthday party:
Poor Derrick. See you in a few years, mijo.

Found at Cake Wrecks.

Don't fear the p .d. investigator

Sancho the public defender investigator fields this e-mail question from a juror:

I was recently a juror on a trial in *** County. The case is over, and we found the defendant guilty - it was a horrible, violent case. Ever since the verdict, my fellow jurors and I have been contacted by the investigator who works for the defendant... The investigator has called our home telephone numbers and even showed up on our doorsteps trying to speak to us. How is this possible?

The subcommandante tries to offer some reassurance:

(A)s much as I might really like a client, I would never consider risking my job, career, and reputation by doing something unethical or illegal...this includes divulging the address of a juror on his/her case...

August 12, 2008

AK: Matthew 25 too costly these days

Hey, one of my old roommates made the news - the Anchorage Daily News:

Kodiak faith-based shelter shuts down - LIVING ROOM: Falloff in donations dooms refuge for the needy

A Kodiak shelter that has served those in hard times for nearly a decade is closing... The closing is troubling to Allan Thielen, a supervising attorney with the Alaska Public Defenders Agency in Kodiak. He says the amount of crime the facility has prevented in the past nine years by taking substance abusers off the streets cannot be measured...

Say what you will about faith-based operations, they're pretty good about extending hospitality to our clients.

More here from Alaska Public Radio.

August 11, 2008

MT: right to counsel, nickel and dimed

From the Missoulian:

Sheriff, public defenders at odds over free calls

After allowing toll-free telephone calls between Missoula County jail inmates and their public defenders for more than two years, Sheriff Mike McMeekin says lost revenue has forced the arrangement to cease. As of July 1, indigent inmates must call their attorneys collect if they want to chat about their legal embroilments over the phone. Ed Sheehy, Missoula's regional deputy public defender, is crying foul...

"Lost revenue"?:

The phone provider to the Missoula County Detention Facility, AGM Telecom, charges a connection fee of $2.60 per call...

Damned Sixth Amendment doesn't comport with Sheriff's business plan.

"It's lawyers, but, you know... they really care"

Courtesy of "Mad Men," a show I didn't know about, possibly because when it went off the air, I was 4: "The Defenders":

The Defenders was American television's seminal legal drama, and perhaps the most socially-conscious series the medium has ever seen... The series concerned the cases of a father-and-son team of defense attorneys, Lawrence Preston (E.G. Marshall), the sharp veteran litigator, and his green and idealistic son Kenneth (Robert Reed)... Certainly The Defenders exploited the inherent drama of the courtroom, but it did so by mining the complexity of the law, its moral and ethical implications, and its human dimensions...

August 09, 2008

TN: “had you wanted God to send you a boss, He would have sent you Ross”


Metro's public defender dead after accident

The Davidson County public defender who created a “progressive” legal representation system, mentored scores of attorneys and was a dedicated family man died Saturday. Ross Alderman, 56, was hit by a car in Williamson County while riding a motorcycle, an activity he enjoyed for years...

Described by his colleagues as a hard worker who cared about fairness, truth and ethics, Mr. Alderman was the driving force behind establishing several new services in the public defender’s office, including programs that help clients with mental health and substance abuse problems...

Via Grand Divisions.

Update: Nashville public defender killed in motorcycle crash - Ross Alderman modernized office

Update: Nashville Public Defender dies in crash - Remembering Ross Alderman: Nashville's public defender was a champion for those in need of one

August 07, 2008

ID: hellbent defendant, carwreck ahead

At this point, I just want to turn away for a while from the unfolding Joseph Duncan death penalty pro se debacle. If you're interested, Betsy Z. Russell of the Spokesman-Review's Eye on Boise blog has your best running coverage.

WA: "sometimes 130 to 240 cases in a 2 hour period"

From KIMA:

Public Defenders Office Deals With Backlog

Dan Fessler runs the Yakima County Department of Assigned Counsel. They're better known as the Public Defenders. Attorneys there handle all defendants who can't afford a lawyer; both adults and juveniles. That's a huge load.

Fessler says it reminds him of an old TV show. "I like to think of it as the old "I Love Lucy" skit where they're working in a bakery and at first she's going along doing fine," Fessler chuckles, "Then the cakes start coming out faster and pretty soon she's dropping cakes..."

There's news video too.

August 01, 2008

WA: the wrong sort of love from the bench

From Eye on Olympia:

When a "Law and Order" script collides with "The Office"...

The state Commission on Judicial Conduct today decided to censure - or officially call on the carpet for an in-person reprimand - former Federal Way Municipal Court Judge Collen Hartl. Hartl violated the code of judicial conduct, both sides agreed, when she had a sexual encounter with a public defender who appeared frequently in her court...

July 31, 2008

ID: Alisha Murphy murder verdict questioned

From the Twin Falls Times-News:

Murphy's attempt to overturn murder conviction moves on - Scientist says consulting several experts could have changed outcome of trial

Alisha Ann Murphy always said she didn't kill her husband... and has tried to overturn her own conviction for years... A judge in Twin Falls on Wednesday decided her second and latest attempt was premature... pending appeal with the Idaho Supreme Court. But Murphy's plight hasn't lost heat...

"Buzz 3 times when you’ve reached a verdict"

From Irrationalblog:

What I learned on a jury

# Public defenders are scary, cold-hearted women.

# The district attorney looks like this kid Ed that I know...

July 30, 2008

"Don't know what kind of jury these lawyers wanted, but it wouldn't be a cinematic one"

In "this real-life adaptation of Twelve Angry Men," Muffin MacGuffin lists a factor that might keep a person from getting cast as one of the jurors:

both my parents are public defenders...

July 27, 2008

WA: justice 64 years delayed

Overdue exoneration, and a vignette of a younger Leon Jaworski as an unethical prosecutor, from KING 5 News:

Army apologizes to WWII Fort Lawton soldiers

Sixty-four years after black soldiers were wrongly court-martialed at Seattle's Fort Lawton, the U.S. Army apologized Saturday. Honor was restored for 43 African American soldiers who were unjustly accused and 28 who were unjustly convicted in the largest U.S. Army court martial of World War II...

See also the Seattle Times, Vet wrongly court-martialed dies within hours of Army apology - Samuel Snow, 83, one of "The Fort Lawton 28" who received a belated U.S. Army apology on Saturday for a now-discredited court-martial, died early today

"A very pleasant picture of a man who committed a very serious crime"

From Bryon Houlgrave's photojournalism blog:

Jailhouse portraits

Do you remember your best school picture pose? Today I shot the pretrial hearing of a man charged with sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl...

Click the link, then scroll down for the photo.

MT: "a uniformity of quality from Ekalaka to Eureka"

From the Great Falls Tribune:

State's public defender overhaul earns Kudos

Two years after Montana overhauled its system for defending the poor in court — partly in response to an ACLU lawsuit — state officials and ACLU leaders say they've seen a major improvement. "I think Montana is actually viewed as a model nationwide for how reforms can be effected," said Robin Dahlberg, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU...

July 22, 2008

Toyota pious

On display today in the Family and Juvenile Court parking lot: a bumper sticker proclaiming "I DON'T SHOP AT WALMART" on the back of a shiny Prius (it's a popular accessory for this town's Volvo's and BMW's too).

That's bound to enlighten the families of my clients, who own the primer-gray beaters in the rest of the parking lot, and who don't know how they're going to pay the bill for detention and groceries and gas this month.