Thursday, May 19, 2005

Great Public Defender Rant

I guess when you begin writing about a subject, you may begin to fancy yourself pretty good at some point, and get a little resentful that others are out there doing a better job than you. I can't say I'm totally resentful, and I try not to have any illusions of grandeur, but I just found a post that bursts any bubble I may have. This post on Craig's list is a rant from a Public Defender that is just golden. Lest any of you DA's out there like Patterico really think that we're all just true-believing bleeding hearts, here's one you can read to gain an insight into what really goes on in our heads. Make sure you read the last line, it's pretty germane to the point the person makes, and to our feelings in general.


Pettifogger said...

Would it be considered bad form to post this at the front of the PD's office so that every client can see it and read it?

Patterico said...

"Lest any of you DA's out there like Patterico really think that we're all just true-believing bleeding hearts"

I don't think that.

PD Dude said...

Tongue in cheek Patterico, tongue in cheek.

Don't you realize you're my usual DA foil at this point?

davidseth said...

I make a point in an artful way of telling the clients exactly what this post says. Basically this:

"Crime is like anyting else. If you don't know what you're doing, you screw it up. If you're not paying attention, you're gonna get caught. If your judgment is bad because of toxins: alcohol, drugs, anger, upset, etc, don't do something criminal. Lots of crimes get done and nobody gets caught. If you want to continue with crime, you have to learn how to be a better dealer/burglar/car thief etc. If you cannot learn to do that and if you cannot stop doing crimes while you're drunk or fucked up on meth or crack or angry or tripping or crazy, you need to learn how to be much, much better at court. This is your safety net. I'm your safety net. I'm here solely to show you how to do court; I know court, I do not know liquor store robberies, carjacking, scoring crack, whoring or the other topics you might be interested in.

Some first steps: get a haircut, put on a shirt (no shirt? I'll get you one), clean your finger nails, speak respectfully to the judge, don't make faces, say "Yes, Maam", "Yes Yerhonor." Learn basic testimony skills from me. Learn how to answer questions. Learn how to keep your mouth shut. Learn how to say, "I would like to speak with my lawyer." Tell me what happened without any bullshit whatsoever. I'm not hear to judge anything, I'm hear to see if we can get you a decent outcome. To do that we have to be a team on this. I know it's hard, but that's whats required. If you don't do what's necessary, you get fucked."

Strange. This little speech given in about 70 different forms makes things go better. I think I can do this because I'm now in the generation older than the typical client. So I'm paternal, or even grandpaternal. Grey hair helps. Wrinkles help. I get heard. Nobody wants to have sex with me, beat me up, show me how tough s/he is, argue with me, impress me.

Advice, believe it or not, ultimately gets accepted. My reputation is excellent in jail. People actually say "thank you." They refer their colleagues in crime who request me by name.

It wasn't always like this, so I can understand all the anger. Rest assured: it's gonna get better if you stick with it. But remember that you cannot get in the ring and not get punched a lot.

Seth Abramson said...

Thanks for the link.

I've been known to rant pretty good myself--my recent post, "20 Incontrovertible Truths About the Criminal Justice System, From Someone Who Knows and Has No Interest in Lying to You About It," raised quite a dust-storm in some quarters--so getting some direction as to where I can find similar (or better) rants is invaluable.

Great blog,

(P.D. in NH)

Seth Abramson said...

P.S. I can't say that I relate to the sentiments in that rant, however--and to be frank I think that the treatment one receives from clients says almost as much about the representation you've provided them as it does about their attitude, upbringing, and personality. I've got great relationships with my clients and the sort of respect and courtesy I regularly show them isn't an act, it's both who I am as well as basic professionalism. Sure, I've got cynical thoughts--what P.D. doesn't--but they don't consume me nearly as much as all the bullshit in the system which has nothing to do with the folks I represent, many of whom are so down and out already I've got no need to kick them in the ribs, even as part of some half-crazed internal monologue.

If that makes me a "bleeding heart," okay. I've heard it makes for a good attorney, also, so I'm not losing any sleep over it.


Aaron Thomas said...

Davidseth, I may need to print that one out and hand it out as clients come in my door.

Christopher King said...

Wow man we gotta talk. One of my best friends was a PD in Columbus Ohio and provided me with the insight you will see when you go to the "Documents" section and read about Jerry L. Doyle vs. Columbus Public Schools. Unfortunately, in Columbus the PD did not want to help Jerry, not because he was dirty or rude but because of the politics.

Anyway, have you read "How Can You Defend Those People?" by James Kunen/Kuhnen? Get it. Read it. You will love it.

I left Ohio's biggest and lowest-paying Law Firm (the Attorney General's Office) and did then proceed down a most interesting path of private practice. You can watch a short (and later, a much longer) movie about it, in fact:

My name is Christopher King. I know ignorance, bigotry, racism, sexism and just plain corporate and judicial hatred all too well.

My experiences in Columbus, Ohio as a Civil Rights lawyer and as a contracts manager working for Boston’s American Tower Corporation – a company fined $300,000.00 by the Department of Labor for overtime violations at my behest – are chronicled in a 15-minute movie on my website, soon to be developed in Hollywood.

Now American Tower has just bought SpectraSite for $3.1B to consolidate their communications power over Americans. After you watch the video, you will be very wary of that encroachment.

-Christopher King, Esq.

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Anonymous said...

PD's are some of the scummiest, inept people I have ever met. One would think that it is the cops, the DA, the judge, even the jury who are totally clueless of a little thing called the "truth." But the PD is the clients' worst enemy half the time, because the truth to them is in consequential, it's practicing their own art of "legal theory, strategy and tactics" which turn them on, be damned the truth, real evidence, defendant's testimony. The idiocy I've witnessed coming from these people is truly olympic. And when you call them on it: Defensiveness, deafening silence, and/or retaliation.

Word: Recording EVERYTHING, on phone and email and every in-person conversation you have with them. Your only defense against their sleaze.


Carmen Taylor, civilian said...

I stumbled upon this site..really interesting what goes on in the *system*..its funny bc I have been in some trouble on my own and done much better for myself than any PD or lawyer..I was running for 3 years from a warrant for a probation violation..with 180 days on the shelf..$1,000 fine..(case was a DUI) I turned myself in and got bailed out..went to court and guess what my Lawyer gets there just as it ends with Hayes..J. Hayes asks me when my attorney doesnt show *Well Ms Taylor what do you want to do? (I already had a list of things written down that I wanted my lawyer to say) so I go thru the mom is sitting in the back freaking out and crying..I give my 10 minute speech on how this old warrant has ruined my life..he tells me *Ms. Taylor? Do you realize I could give you 180 days that you have on the shelf and a $1,000 fine?* I said *Yes your Honor I do*..He said well you made your case so I am dismissing the charges and everthing against you..have a nice day and a good life?* THEN as everyone is clapping (and I am serious) my attorney walks in!!! But I can go both sides of the law..sometimes I hate the system and sometimes its okay..anyways it was cool reading your blog..I guess I'll keep an eye out of it for a while..Take care..
C Taylor