May 31, 2008

MN: the layoffs are coming

From In-Forum News: Clay lawyer cuts coming

Confronted with a potential $4.7 million deficit, the Minnesota Board of Public Defense will turn to layoffs to help balance its budget.

As a result, dozens of public defenders will lose their jobs, or leave voluntarily by opting for incentive packages. Those who remain will see their caseloads grow...

Incidentally, one proposal is to bury an army of 8000 clay lawyers to guard Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) in the afterlife.

May 30, 2008

WA: Grant County - the saga continues

The Ephrata / Soap Lake / Moses Lake p.d. crisis has gone away, but the lawsuit that fixed it hasn't. From the Columbia Basin Herald:

ACLU mulls appeal in Grant County public defender settlement - Judge ruled in Grant County's favor

A Seattle attorney representing the ACLU said it hasn't been decided if a recent ruling made in Grant County's favor will be appealed... Kittitas County Superior Court Judge Michael E. Cooper ruled Grant County will not have to pay the ACLU $100,000 concerning the county's representation of poor clients in 2006... Seattle attorney Don Scaramastra said he believes the county failed to keep promises during its attorney shortage in Dec. 2006...

In 2006, the county had difficulty luring attorneys to rural Grant County because attorneys believed the ACLU would be looking over their shoulders, (Grant County Commissioner Richard) Stevens said. But for Grant County's 2006 performance, Judge Cooper decided the county made significant enough growth in the settlement agreement it has with the ACLU, Stevens said. "The judge ruled that it wasn't perfect, but very good," Stevens said. "The judge said the citizens of Grant County are being served well by the indigent defense plan..."

May 29, 2008

KY: short-change DPA now, pay later

Seems to be a lot of legislative false economizing going on nationwide. From

Chief public defender takes case to judges - asks state to pay for private lawyers for defendants

The state's chief public defender is asking judges to order the state... to pay for private lawyers for some poor criminal defendants because his agency can no longer afford to represent them.

In a letter to judges released Wednesday (pdf file), public advocate Ernie Lewis warned that public defenders will begin refusing certain types of cases starting July 1 as a result of the $2.3 million budget cut approved this spring by the General Assembly. Lewis said the Department of Public Advocacy cannot afford to fill about 40 vacancies. With caseloads already at unethically high levels, Lewis said, public defenders cannot take on additional cases...

May 28, 2008

AK: "most of the people I contact aren't big readers"

One cool public defender investigator, from

Alaska's mystery man

John Straley works as an investigator for the Alaska public defender's office, interviewing witnesses, gathering and analyzing evidence, finding experts. It's challenging work that introduces him to people who have no idea that he's written seven novels and is Alaska's state writer laureate...

I've read one of his, The Woman Who Married a Bear, an entertaining book, with great Southeast atmosphere.

May 27, 2008

Deputy public defender monkey

A travelling sock monkey on Minnesota's p. d. crisis:

Monkey and I both agreed that the state needed to add more public defenders. Monkey also felt that there should be an attorneys lounge with bananas...

May 22, 2008

WA: acting weird - now constitutionally protected in Washington State

See what a little motion to suppress can do. From the Olympian:

WA court: Police pat-downs can't be based on odd behavior

In another nod to the Washington Constitution's broad privacy protections, the state Supreme Court has thrown out the drug conviction of a man who was searched by police solely because of his weird behavior. Thursday's unanimous decision reinforces the rules for simple pat-downs under state law, which offers stronger safeguards against police searches than the U.S. Constitution...

The case is State v. Setterstrom (pdf file).

From Eye on Olympia:

Meth conviction tossed out; police frisk was unjustified...

An officer may frisk a person... if stopping the person was justifiable, if the officer has "a reasonable concern of danger" and the scope of the search is limited to finding weapons. But Setterstrom presented no reasonable danger, the court ruled. His "nervous, fidgety behavior" wasn't enough. There were no threatening gestures or words. And he remained sitting down. And it's not unreasonable to think that people filling out a state benefits form for unemployment might "exhibit erratic behavior..."

Big salute to Thurston County public defender Deborah Murphy, who preserved the issue at the trial level.

May 21, 2008

MN: penny wise, pound foolish

From Minnesota Lawyer Blog:

Public defenders face losing 61 more lawyers

The public defenders in Minnesota have been hit hard by the Legislature which cut their budget by $1.5 million dollars for FY 2009. It looks as if a serious number of attorneys will lose their jobs...

See also KSTP:

15 percent of state's public defenders may be laid off

and the Star-Tribune:

Public defenders are put on list of proposed budget cuts - Financial woes and a tough economy could mean layoffs for more than 60; all 87 counties would be affected

And light a candle for our friend Accident Prone.

May 20, 2008

Sweet home Idaho

Today when I found the website of Federal Defender Services of Idaho and watched the pretty pictures scrolling by, I swear I got a little homesick...

May 19, 2008

IL: "they reconciled their differences"

The p.d. news today concerns Cook County chief public defender Edwin Burnette. From the Cook County Public Defender Blog:

Rumors of his Demise Greatly Exaggerated

The hearing on the proposed resolution to remove Ed Burnette has been cancelled...

From the Chicago Tribune's Clout Street:

Stroger drops effort to fire public defender

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger is dropping his effort to fire Public Defender Edwin Burnette, the public defender and a spokesman for Stroger confirmed Monday...

More news and links from Division Street.

May 18, 2008

"Neither Officer Friendly nor Officer Hardass"

From Police Link:

Not just kid stuff: Handling juveniles on patrol

(Y)our interaction with juvenile subjects will have repercussions for future officers who deal with these youths. This is all the more so for juveniles because their ideas, conceptions and opinions of police may still be forming, and how you handle an encounter may have a powerful effect in influencing their lifelong perception of the law and its representatives...

Always helpful to compare the advice law enforcement are given about dealing with my clientele, to the advice I give my kids for emerging unarrested from the same encounters.

One hop

There's a rabbit warren in the bushes next to juvenile detention. Tonight one of the younger bunnies was there for debriefing after I'd stepped out from talking with two clients. Both are about to go away for a long time, a likely ten months for the one, more than two years for the other. The resident wildlife outside seem to have a sense of when I can use a bit of animal uplift.

May 15, 2008

CA: Sacto Sisyphus

From the Sacramento News and Review:

Guilty till proven innocent - Head Sacramento County public defender says the justice system is broken. Get used to it.

His mother went berserk, lashing out at the person who seemed most responsible for the outcome, her son’s public defender, who retaliated with her own outburst of anger. It was ugly. Similar scenes play out at the Sacramento Superior Court on a regular basis. There’s not too much Chief Public Defender Paulino Duran can do about it...

Listen up. This is Sacramento’s head public defender talking. You may need his services someday. He’s telling you our criminal-justice system is broken, perhaps beyond repair...

All the same, remember:

The struggle enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

NM: enough with the physical attacks on p.d.'s, now

From KOAT, Albuquerque:

Public Defenders Assaulted At MDC

Two members of the public defender's office are recovering at home Thursday night after being assaulted by a Metro Detention Center inmate, jailers said...

From KOB (with broadcast video):

Inmate attacks women at metro detention center

Two women from the public defenders office survived a brutal beating Thursday morning at the Bernalillo County Metro Detention Center...

This sh*t has to stop.

May 14, 2008

"The hardest step - the rest is cake"

A post that really reached me, from Doubtslinger:

As a public defender, you quickly learn to celebrate even the smallest of things. Today was just such a celebration. Today I retired my longest running client...

I'm lucky: I retire my clients when they turn 18. Luckily, many of them never graduate to the adult system.

May 13, 2008

A fistful of Faretta

From Minnesota Law Blog:

Public defender heroism in St. Louis County

It turns out we had a hero in our midst and most of us didn’t realize it. It is a little reminder... of the good work done by public defenders every day. In St. Louis County, public defender Mark Groettum was attacked by his client, who wrapped his arm around Groettum’s neck and punched him repeatedly in the face. Remarkably, the defendant then requested a new court-appointed lawyer...

Two consequences for such behavior (at least for Minnesota clients):

1. A criminal defendant forfeits his right to court-appointed counsel when he assaults his court-appointed attorney.

2. The district court does not violate due process by deciding, without an evidentiary hearing, that a criminal defendant has forfeited his right to court-appointed counsel when the defendant assaults his court-appointed attorney in the presence of the court...

PDF file of today's Minnesota Court of Appeals opinion in State v. Lehman here.

Minnesota Public Radio shares this colloquy from the trial transcript:

LEHMAN: Well, after what you have read, it seems to me most of them cases require repeated disruptions. That's one disruption.

JUDGE: I understand your position, and the one disruption was sufficient to cause the forfeiture based upon the vicious attack that you chose to engage in here against your attorney this morning.

LEHMAN: Aren't we assuming guilt there? Don't I have a right to a trial on that attack?

JUDGE: Ultimately you will, if there is charges filed, but you did commit the offense in the presence of the Court...

Update: perspective from a colleague who's been on the receiving end -
What protects the defender? A radical difference in rules

May 10, 2008

ID: supreme Sarah Johnson smackdown

Heckling during oral argument, in front of the state Supremes, perhaps from the state Supremes, reported by Cassidy Friedman by the Times-News:

Supreme Court weighs Johnson case

Idaho Supreme Court justices will have to decide whom to blame for Sarah Johnson's botched defense: the judge or her attorney. Guessing from the blasting that Johnson's absent attorney received, the furious scribbling by reporters and the astonishment of Johnson's family each time a new heckle was uttered, it's not looking good for the attorney.

Members of the state's Supreme Court heard arguments on Johnson's appeal Friday, over three years after an Ada County jury found her guilty... (of) first-degree murder... (At trial), defense attorney Bob Pangburn harped the same line, "no blood, no guilt" - meaning that since no blood spatter was found on Johnson, the triggerman must have been somebody else.

Never did that defense seem more regrettable than Friday when Justice Roger S. Burdick, at Johnson's appeal, called that once memorable line "some silly jingle." As it turned out just before the jury's deliberation, the defense blew into a rage when the judge instructed the jury they could just as easily find Johnson guilty of murder by aiding and abetting someone else to do it because the two accusations are one and the same by Idaho law. To be guilty of the charge, she didn't have to be the one who pulled the trigger.

"Why wouldn't a competent defense attorney say, 'OK, she's being charged with first-degree murder,' (and) prepare a defense that goes either way?" asked Justice Warren E. Jones...

Fair question, that. It'll be asked in post-conviction proceedings too.

May 08, 2008

WA: the activist's passive voice - "rocks were thrown"

(photo: Tony Overman/The Olympian)

Two updates on a participant in our latest local civil disturbance, from Eabha the Kiwi:

Danny (Vegas) Willson has been in Jail in Olympia Washington since May 1st and Needs Bail $$

As some of you already know Daniel Wilson (AKA Danny Vegas)... is currently in jail in Olympia, Washington. Danny along with five others were arrested on May 1st for there participation in a May Day celebration in which symbols of the state and Capital were attacked...

Danny Is Out

folks in olympia managed to find enough collateral, so we don't need bail anymore. however, they are still searching for cash for legal fees, etc... danny might be able to get a 'public defender', but there will still be major costs associated with the trial...

If he qualifies for the p.d., what major costs would those be? And what's with the quotation marks, 'comrades'?

National Public Defender Radio

Recent interviews on NPR:

Public Defenders Have Their Say

Public defenders protect the constitutional rights of poor defendants charged with crimes. But they're overworked and under-respected. Farai Chideya speaks with Rick Jones — deputy director of the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem (NDS) — and Brian Wait, Senior Public Defender in the Orange County Public Defender's Office...

Audio here.

And as lagniappe, here's the American RadioWorks documentary, Locked Down: Gangs in the Super Max.

May 07, 2008

TX: bless you, Temple Mims

Debate in the Tyler Morning Telegraph:

Wingnut wishes physical harm on family of criminal defense lawyer.

Criminal defense lawyer's 14-year-old daughter responds.

Winner: 14-year-old.

Update: thanks to Scott, Grits for Breakfast guru and Tyler townie, this item made it all the way to Fark!

ID: drug court gadfly

Long profile of a flinty Drug Court client, from the Boise Weekly:

Head Banger - Paul Rogers' fight against Idaho law, and how it almost worked

Paul Rogers never planned to move to Idaho. He never planned to spend five years bouncing in and out of jail and prison. But then, he never really planned to get so caught up with meth that it would bring his life to a sudden halt.

He also never planned to change Idaho law. But with a ruling
(pdf file) from the Idaho Supreme Court last fall, this unlikely source forced a change in the way drug courts around Idaho are run...

And now the "almost" part:

In effect, the decision reversed time. Rogers was granted the hearing he had sought so long ago... At the hearing though, (Judge) Wilper kicked Rogers out of drug court again...

May 04, 2008

CO: “I haven’t had a client yet that I thought was unredeemable”

From the Speakout section of the Rocky Mountain News:

Equal justice in Logan County and much more - The story of a public defender

Public Defender Mike Boyce’s demeanor is sure, his smile disarming. His deep intrepid voice is only slightly contradicted by his visibly shaking hands, “there is something wrong when you don’t get nervous, a lot of it is caring about your client,” he continues “if you’re not nervous, if you’re completely at ease, there is something wrong...”

Mr. Boyce’s compassion reminds me of a quote by the famous German author, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Treat people as if they were what they should be, and you help them become what they are capable of becoming...”

May 01, 2008

Mawashi 'ed up

I can only avert my eyes in awe of the awesome awfulness of a local colleague's Craigslist ad:


Why incredible prices? I had personal issues last year that required me to downscale my practice. I am back, but it will take me sometime to rebuild my practice so I am willing to provide low prices as I rebuild...

I think that "personal issues" is a fine euphemism.