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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"387"


I want you to take a wild guess what the number 387 represents:

Not (of course) the number of days in a year, not the amount of my raise, and (as one of my fellow Gideon’s classmates guessed) the number of lovers I have had.  That number, dear reader, represents the number of people I currently represent.  If you are not appalled don’t worry, I am appalled for you. 

I told one of my co-workers the other day, personally I would not want to be represented by an attorney that has 386 other active cases going.  Even if that attorney spent an entire day, every single day of the year, on just one case, the research, reviewing the discovery, deciphering the law, visiting the alleged crime scene, speaking with victims, witnesses, law enforcement and the district attorney, never taking a day or not off, she would still be 22 days short of getting to all of her cases.

I hate to be the bearer of reality news here but public defense attorneys do not have the ability to spend one ENTIRE day, EVERY day to just one case.  My phone rings constantly, people drop by as if I have a revolving door and a welcome mat outside my office, six different judges can call and tell me they need me 5 minutes ago and I have to go.  There are clients at the jail you need to see, witnesses you need to speak with, evidence that needs to be reviewed, motions that need to be filed, procedures that need to be explained, and don’t forget, the phone is STILL ringing.

387 is a sickeningly high number. Part of me places the blame on the office; I sometimes feel we are the Augustus Goop of law.  We will continue to consume despite the fact that our gut is telling us we are full.  More cases? Pile it on. More clients? Pile it on. More charges? Pile it on. More, more, more…sure we will get sick until we throw up.  That just means there’s more room to consume.

Part of me places the blame on the judges.  I have had clients who CLEARLY should not have qualified for a public defender.  When you have to call my office from your home in Southwest Florida because staying in town was just too stressful for you and you needed to get away, you should not have a court appointed attorney.  When you walk into court with new acrylic nails and the latest coach bag, decked out and holding keys to a 2013 anything-other-than-a-Kia…umm…you probably should not have a court appointed attorney.  I know, I know, I have thought this through and I understand people’s current financial situation does not speak for their previous financial situation.  People could be in a tax bracket one day and a completely new tax bracket the next.  The people I am speaking of do not fall into those categories.  ‘Well, how is that the judges’ fault?’ you ask? Well, I’m glad you asked.  The courts have the ability, I would even dare to say the duty, to ensure that the defendant’s they send to us actually qualify for a court appointed attorney.  I believe that people who are given court appointed attorneys, be they public defenders or private counsel; do not deserve less zealous representation just because they cannot afford to hire an attorney.  But that is exactly what they are getting when the judge’s haphazardly throw everyone our way that asks for a public defender.

I realize that the real blame goes to the system. A system that believes a public defense attorney with 11-15 years of experience deserve no more than the starting salary of a new law grad going to a mid-size firm.  A system that fights tooth and nail when asked for the resources to defend the United States Constitution. 

Ponder this for a moment: The new lawyer at the firm will spend the first year of their career locked in a library, doing research and sending memos to senior level attorneys.  They will likely never meet a client and, if they are lucky, they will probably step foot into a courtroom once as an observer.  The first year public defender will spend approximately 1,744 hours in a courtroom. 

YEAR ONE OF LEGAL PRACTICE

Public defender = 1,744 hours in court = $38,000 = 387 clients

Private attorney = 1 hour in court = $70,000 = no clients


Just meditate on that for a moment.


387 is ridiculous.
Until next time,

Be blessed, be careful, don't consent and don't confess.

~LT