Tuesday, September 05, 2006

LA Times Runs Series on Norwalk Public Defender

The Los Angeles Times is running a 5 part series that is apparently focused entirely on a PD in the Norwalk Branch of the LA County Public Defender's Office. You can read the article here, and from there you can find the other articles in the series. Today's is part 2.

So far, the article has been very well written and fair to PDs, putting us in a better light than we are normally put. The articles have so far emphasized things that I've said for a long time: we frequently believe deeply in the cause of justice, equal access to that justice for people even if they're not rich, and fighting for individuals as well as you can, without judging them.

This does not, of course, mean that we are in favor of crime, or that we approve of many of the things that our clients do, but that we understand this basic principle: If you ever do something wrong, something that may very well deserve of punishment, and you call a lawyer, you want someone who will handle your case as well as he can without telling you that you are bad person, or deserve whatever you get. For all of us (relatively) rich folk out there, we take this for granted, we expect that when we shell out large bucks to a private lawyer that the lawyer will do everything possible within the bounds of the law for you. As public defenders, we do that for our clients, even though they haven't personally written us a large check to get us to do it.

Great series so far, let's hope it stays this good.


The rest of the series was just as good as the first couple of stories. Well done, well written. Finally, public defenders aren't shown as being total morons and sellouts. It's about time!


Anonymous said...

Why do PDs always seem to emphasize the fact that the people they serve are "indigent" and haven't paid for their services. In my opinion, you lose a lot of credibility by constantly hammering on this misleading and somewhat specious point.

First, you owe your clients the highest ethical and professional duties from the moment you take on their cases, regardless of whether the client has directly paid you a fee. Your duty and responsibiliy is absolute and is not measured by the size of your fees. Your clients should not be dismissed as ingrates if they complain about your service simply because they are not out of pocket for the service they have every right to expect.

Second, you are being fully compensated for your services by your own employment contract, and you receive support services (investigation, paralegal, office support) without having to manage and pay for them. So, to say that your clients are not paying for your services is irrelevant and misleading because you are being paid pursuant to a third-party beneficiary contract with your employer. This does not make your clients any less deserving of your best efforts and the highest professional standards.

If you fail to communicate with your clients and keep them informed of the status of their cases, including the progress of your investigation and discovery, and if you fail or refuse to discuss your investigation plans and your case strategy with your clients and otherwise fail to involve them in the process of the defense, then your clients have good reason to doubt the quality and integrity of your service.

The all too frequent reference to the client not going out of pocket for your services can be construed as an excuse or a rationalization for shoddy and unprofessional service. If you want to improve your public image, then improve your client relations by providing your clients with their entitlement.

Falsly Accused.

Anonymous said...

Public Defenders would do a better job if they received the same amount of funds, that the DA receives, for private investigators, paralegels, etc. And, if they didn't have a Bias Judge, who use to be a prosecutor, sitting on the bench.