In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right […] to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
It’s sad that in the 50th Anniversary year of Gideon v. Wainwright, we still do no more than pay lip service to one of the most important rights bestowed upon the people (it’s included in The Bill of Rights for a reason). It’s sad that the system has remained so overburdened that it is nothing more than an assembly line that must be kept moving at all costs. And if that cost is the rights of the defendants, so be it. Because in order for any criminal justice system to function, there must be turnover, because there is always volume. And you don’t get turnover if you don’t have attorneys who can “move” cases: plead ’em out, convince clients to take deals, sell what the prosecutor is selling. To do anything else would be to tax the system and those who tax the system get punished.
So the system seeks out those who are compliant and rewards them. Rewards them to the tune of 3.5 cases for every business day in the calendar year. Rewards them for being one of the boys by assigning a fuckton of cases to them: 920 in the whole year.
Think about that for a second: 920 individuals are represented by one lawyer in one year. That means if he (and Geraldo Acosta of Harris County, Texas is a he) started 2013 with no clients, today he’d have 98 of them. 98 individuals relying on him for their liberty. 98 individuals relying on him to further their best interests.
What do you think happens? Do you think he manages 920 cases a year by rigorously investigating and defending each one? Do you think he spends every waking moment doing everything that is reasonably necessary for each client? Do you think he can?
And why does he get 920 cases a year? Because he’s so good? Or because he’s so good at moving them along?
Just for comparison’s sake, the “overburdened, overworked, underpaid, not a real lawyer” public defender in CT was assigned to an average of 462 cases last year [PDF – Appendix Table 12] in the busy low courts. The highest per attorney appointment was 653: 267 cases short of Acosta by himself.
This is the state of your criminal justice system. This is the state of justice.