The rantings of a Public Defender constantly fighting against society's pervasive Police Industrial Complex. Enjoy the unique perspective of one whose life's work is to fight the system through the system.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Where have all the good cases gone.....? private counsel!!!

Seems as if every time I get a good case, where the defendant has some really good issues and I think I can win at trial (or that he may be innocent, or at least not guilty of the charges), the conversation turns something like this:

Defendant: "Well, I really appreciate all the good work you're doing."

Me: "Hey, I'm doing my job, but it's the least I can do, and I'll keep doing everything I can for you."

Defendant: "So, my family and I were talking, and we thought we may go and hire a real lawyer to represent me on this case."

Me: (thinking - "You stupid piece of shit, all this work I've done and you're going go and hire a 'real' lawyer, as if I'm dogshit and haven't been doing anything all this time, and he's going to go and screw up your case since you're not going to be able to pay him much money anyways") speaking - "Do what you have to do, but I'm more than happy to represent you, and by the way, I am a real lawyer, and have probably done far more cases than any lawyer you're going to hire, but you go ahead and do what you think you need to do."

Defendant: "Uh, okay."

Next court date, some crappy lawyer substitutes in, looks at all of the work I've done and what I've accomplished, goes to the Defendant and tells him that he's going fight the case real hard, and look at all the stuff he's already done for him. Defendant, too stupid to know the difference, thanks God that he hired that private lawyer.

I, on the other hand, am still stuck with all of those piece of crap cases where the person is dead to rights on a life case, with a confession, videotaped murder, or some other appallingly bad set of facts that is going to leave me stuck in trial for 2 weeks sitting next to a guy that will make the jury so angry they'll come back with a verdict of guilty towards both him and me. The good case, however, along with all of the hard work I've done, will be in the hands of that private lawyer who's getting all of the credit for the work I did.

So I have one of those great cases, one where I've done a huge amount of work, where I know I can win the case, where the trial will be really fun - loads of strategizing and surprises, and sure enough, the sister calls me and starts talking about a real lawyer. Well, I'm crossing my fingers it doesn't happen. I just had a private lawyer substitute me out of one of those terrible cases the other day, maybe I have some kharma going. More later.

BTW - You may remember how much I hate that crooked "gang expert testimony" by cops just trying to say anything to get a conviction? Well, that will be a major issue in this case, and I'm just lying in wait ready to mess them up. Last time I was lying in wait, it worked on a special circumstance murder case. Maybe again?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a PD and heard that nonsense I'd say,

"You've got the best. If you want to hire someone who's not as good, be my guest."

A little ego is healty in the indigent line of work...

5/04/2005 7:47 PM

Anonymous AZ PD said...

I just tell them:

"Fine. Just make sure you don't hire the lawyer we wouldn't, or the incompetent jerk we had to let go."

Hopefully, it gets them to think that maybe the mythical "street lawyer" isn't all they are cracked up to be.

5/04/2005 8:22 PM

Blogger PD Dude said...

These are good lines all, unless, of course, they are subbing you out of that completely hopeless case that you're thrilled to get off of.

5/04/2005 9:39 PM

Anonymous a nor cal pd said...

What's worse is, what happened to one of my colleagues. She files a motion to suppress to be heard at the prelim. Client hires a local, relatively high profile private attorney. He comes in, waives prelim, AND the DA withdraws the offer. At arraignment on the information, he withdraws, saying the client has no more money. My colleague is reappointed, but now with a totally fucked case.

5/05/2005 11:07 AM

Blogger Windypundit said...

So what's a fellow to do? I'm a computer consultant, and while technically unemployed most days, I probably wouldn't qualify for a PD if I'm ever arrested. I haven't checked how this works here in Illinois. I'm hoping the PD office at least handles bail so I don't have to wait for a private lawyer to show up.

(Actually, I hope even more that I never get arrested, but that's not entirely under my control.)

Also, while I wouldn't hesitate to have a skilled PD defend me, I don't necessarily feel that way about the PD's office. I hear they're quite busy these days. It might not matter how good the PD is if he or she only gets to spend 17 minutes on my case and can't afford investigators or experts.

Maybe a private lawyer who used to be a PD...

5/05/2005 7:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


You planning on getting arrested? Anything you want to get off your chest? I'm listening.

But fear not, if you get picked up, the PD argues bond for you, regardless of whether they ultimately get appointed.


5/08/2005 10:42 PM

Blogger karl said...

I insist that if a defendant is going to hire a private attorney he should tell me in advance who it is. I explain to them there are alot of good attorneys out there, but a fair number of attorneys who will take their money, screw up their case and leave them in a worse situation.

I also make sure each and every client whose case I am unusually interested in for one reason or another, gets "the talk" that includes my resume & my philosophy on trying cases, as well as gets treated as if they were a private client and not merely a "number". Bedside manner goes a long way.

- k

5/11/2005 2:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are those of us in the private world who:
1) never dump cases after prelim
2) discourage def.s from switching attorneys when they have a good public defender
3) correct the notion that PD's are not "real" lawyers
There is a difference between making an honest living and chasing the almighty dollar. There are many private attorneys in my medium sized California town doing the former, if it comforts you.

5/12/2005 10:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even the best PDs I've seen were overworked. One big problem is that defendants usually don't have the skills to evaluate any lawyer, and all they know is that it wasn't a PD that got OJ off.

5/18/2005 9:56 AM

Blogger stormy said...

PD Dude. in our county there are only 2 full time defenders. 2nd eco depressed county in Penna.

now where is justice? Ben there don that. 1 day before trial i get a visit.

PD Dude I belive in you 100%. I feel you are one of few. Keep up the good work.

I was just arrested for not shoveling snow. The case is totaly messed up from start. But I will trash the case alone with out the help of the local PD.

5/18/2005 8:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is the gang testimony from the expert witness subject to attack? Why do you consider it to be false?

9/12/2005 5:01 PM

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10/08/2005 3:41 PM

Blogger A Voice of Sanity said...

Next court date, some crappy lawyer substitutes in, looks at all of the work I've done and what I've accomplished, goes to the Defendant and tells him that he's going fight the case real hard, and look at all the stuff he's already done for him.

Start putting your name on all the documents as a watermark!

8/12/2007 4:25 PM

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