WY: “It looks to me like the defendant’s got a net worth of several million dollars,” Anderson said. ⇒ It’s a fact: Some people who can afford their own attorney still prefer the representation of a public defender.
FL: A Leon County Circuit judge threw out the state Legislature’s decision to appoint a second tier of special public defenders around the state to represent needy defendants who can’t be represented by the existing elected public defenders because of a conflict of interest. ⇒
CA: Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval has recently proposed adding language to The City’s existing crime-camera ordinance that would allow the Public Defender’s Office, private defense attorneys and court-appointed investigators access to camera footage from The City’s disaster agency. ⇒
AZ: Public Defender Dana Hlavac reports his office is overwhelmed with cases and has testified in Superior Court why his office should be removed from representing nearly a dozen defendants. State law dictates that public defenders are limited to 150 cases per attorney per year and Hlavac has stated his attorneys are at the statutory limit. ⇒
The award cites the office’s increased caseload and high quality of service, noting that in pretrial stages aggressive investigation and discovery has resulted in many cases being dismissed in the interest of justice. ⇒
Beginning in 2008, Missouri State Public Defender offices across the state will accept only the most serious of the cases referred to them.
Otherwise, the public defender system can afford to contract out 3,000 cases to private attorneys. After that, cases will be refused by the public defender system, and left to the courts to decide what to do.
It’s not quite the “nuclear option” — the decision to take no more cases — that the state Public Defender Commission considered, but narrowly rejected, earlier this year after a consultant described the Missouri public defender system as being in a crisis. But it comes close.
The system’s crisis was described in a 2005 report commissioned by the Missouri Bar as the 47th lowest funded state public defender system in the nation and “on the verge of collapse.”
In the last three months alone, the Boone County public defender’s office has received 1,134 new cases, 378 cases a month, or an average of 31 new cases a month or one new case a day for each lawyer, Deputy Director Cathy Kelly said.
It sounds like taxpayers and legislators in Missouri don’t care much about the constitution. You can’t care about the constitution while at the same time you refuse to provide the resources necessary to defend those accused of crimes.
I’d love to see that report saying MO has the 47th lowest funded state public defender system in the nation. What’s the lowest funded? What’s the best? Where are the top 10 best funded systems? What is life like there? [tags]MO, funding, caseloads, budgets, crisis[/tags]
CA: The jury found Mastbrook’s testimony more credible than the lieutenant’s. ⇒ Gotta love any jury that will believe a homeless man over a cop.
TN: Mark Stephens is expected to file papers saying his office is now too busy to defend any more misdemeanor cases. ⇒
It’s apparently been a big news day for public defenders. In what has to be something of a nightmare for the PDs, shots were fired into the offices of the Indianapolis public defender. Can’t you just imagine a PD’s office swarming with cops? Yikes.
Meanwhile, a “loony lawyer” in the Bronx who apparently kicked his client twice in open court while the man was in shackles is being investigated again. Apparently David Feige wrote about this in his book, indefensible, which I highly recommend. (I read it last year, but I don’t remember that part.)
Closer to home, homicides are way up in Twin Falls, Idaho, putting a big strain on the public defenders there.
With an ever-changing cast of inexperienced deputies, Public Defender Marilyn Paul will handle six murder cases this year, working more or less alone.
Paul did not respond to requests for comment for this article, but 5th District Trial Court Administrator Linda Wright said “Her office is always busy. It’s just got to be a hair-puller.”
Down south, Georgia’s relatively new system of statewide criminal defense is under attack with at least one person ranting that the state system is not working and should be dismantled:
“I would like to call in a Rant about the Public Defender’s office and the article that the staff may be furloughed. I think that it completely needs to be given back to the counties and the state needs to stay out of it. We had a better system, at least in the Tifton circuit, before the state got hold of it.”
Meanwhile, in Florida, one public defender is running a clothing drive for the benefit of his clients:
Public Defender Bob Wesley is holding his annual clothing drive, seeking donations of suits, jackets, skirts — any sort of professional attire that might allow criminal defendants to wear something other than a jumpsuit or raggedy clothes when appearing before a judge and jury. IThe office will collect clothes Saturday December 22, 2007 from 10am to 2pm in front of the courthouse 435 North Orange Avenue. They are especially in need of men’s clothing in smaller sizes. And if you doubt the value of this effort, consider that I know some judges make clothing donations themselves.
Kudos to Mr. Wesley. What a brilliant idea!
Great discussion of police use of tasers on the Diane Rehm Show last week. Click over to listen to the audio of the show and learn that tasers have been involved in over 200 deaths. Some police departments are using them indiscriminately and without proper training. Plus, you can buy one for yourself on the street. Terrific. [tags]tasers[/tags]