The real cause of prison overcrowding: public defenders

Well, they’re at it again. The law firm that can’t seem to sell itself without dumping on public defenders has another post up [Update: I just noticed that their post is actually dated April 10, 2008. Heh]. This post actually makes some valid points and seems more like a blog post than a marketing advert. At least until you get to the middle, that is:

A vast majority of the people that end up in prison are represented by the public defenders offices throughout the state. In many cases, to know fault of their own the public defender cannot provide the level of legal defense that should be received by anyone facing jail time. Thus the jails are full of poor people, mostly minority who could not find the funds to retain private counsel.

There are so many things wrong with that paragraph, least of all the spelling.

The implication here is that if you’re poor, you’ll go to jail. If you’re rich (or have money to hire this particular law firm), you won’t. Doesn’t matter whether the State has a strong case; wave some greenbacks in the prosecutor’s face and he’ll go straight to his knees.

This also seems like false advertising to me. They’re promising things they can’t deliver. Are they really saying that prison overcrowding would not be a problem if everyone was represented by private counsel (or perhaps just their firm)? They seem to be implying that every case is winnable, if you have the money to hire a lawyer.

Does anyone know how good this firm is? Anyone heard of them? Any readers from the West Coast? Why do they keep doing this? Did one of them get fired from the PDs office?

In a similar vein, see recent posts from Norm and Scott.

In other news, public defenders are also the cause of black holes, crop circles and Dick Cheney’s sneery disposition.

8 thoughts on “The real cause of prison overcrowding: public defenders

  1. TexPD4Parity

    I only WISH I could claim responsibility for causing “the sneer.” About those crop circles and black holes? I plead the Fifth….(malevolent laughter)

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  3. S.cotus

    Okay, this firm is reprehensible, but that isn’t the issue. They are technically correct.

    Consider this:

    A vast majority of the people that end up in prison are represented by the public defenders offices throughout the state.

    Probably true. Most people arrested can’t pay for their lawyers. In many places it is about 90/10. Of the people found guilty, the majority probably will have been represented by public defenders. I think in most places it is mathematically impossible for the prison population not to be indigent. Moreover, I don’t think anyone seriously doubts that there is a link between poverty and crime.

    In many cases, to know fault of their own the public defender cannot provide the level of legal defense that should be received by anyone facing jail time.

    There is a typo here. But, let’s assume they mean “though no fault of their own.” This is probably an extremely subjective statement. My guess is that nobody facing jail time ever receives the amount of “legal defense” the “should” receive. In practice this doesn’t matter, as many cases are dismissed or resolved otherwise, but in a perfect world, every case, before the prosecutor even had a chance to make an initial decision on it would be the subject to an intensive investigation by 100s of people. But, this isn’t an ideal world.

    Thus the jails are full of poor people, mostly minority who could not find the funds to retain private counsel.

    The problem with this statement is the word “thus.” But, it is true that the jails are filled with poor minorities. Poor people, by definition, rarely can afford their own lawyers.

    The bigger problem with this is that non-lawyers simply have no idea what they are talking about and are thrust into a strange system which has more nuances then they could every understand.

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  4. Jan

    I actually had a different reading of the sentence: “In many cases, to [no] fault of their own the public defender cannot provide the level of legal defense that should be received by anyone facing jail time.”

    I understood “their own” to apply to the attorney who is over-burdened, not to the poor person who is represented by the PD. As in, “it’s not the public defender’s fault that s/he is so over-burdened that s/he cannot provide the legal defense that a paid lawyer [supposely] can”. Not ever state (certainly not California) has had a Rivera v. Rowland decision force the legislature to increase funding by millions and double the number of positions.

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  5. S.cotus

    I believe that in all states with an “agency” model of PDs (i.e. CT, AK, MD), the PD could simply refuse to represent people in a doomsday scenario. Every now and then this happens where in states where the PD is funded locally.

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  6. Ruth

    Add to this the fact that, at least here, some people here opt for public defenders when they could pay for private attorneys. We have a system whereby a person can pay back the state for legal representation when they don’t meet the indency requirements. I have actually had clients that told me they hired private counsel on one of their cases because they were innocent, but they would like me to represent them on the other 4 or 5 cases they had pending.

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  7. Kathleen Sweet

    My nephew was charged with receiving stolen goods which he did not do, Public Defender wanted to plead out and he would only do 6 months in jail. We paid an Attorney and my nephew was set free, because he didn’t do the crime. How may other young men are doing time because of ineffective council. Public Defender get paid whether they do a good job or not so why should they care.

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