Anyway, The Library of Defense linked to me this editorial in the New York Times. An interesting piece about the difference between a public defender – employed and trained by a public defender’s office; and, a court-appointed defense attorney, who is often a sole practitioner who may have some experience, but……may not.
As someone who was a public defender, trained at one of the most organized public defense offices in the nation, I can’t argue their point. And, for criminal defendants, they will usually be better off with someone from an office like my former one than most other situations. But, there are no guarantees – someone who is good at their job, is good at their job.
What I find strange about this editoral, and many like them, is that they look at murder cases as the example. If you really want to know what kind of service people are getting from their free lawyers, look at the misdemeanors and the low-level drug and property felony cases – the battle in the trenches, if you will.
The one constant for both is that they will be woefully underpaid for what should be expected to represent someone charged with murder. And, regardless of their employer, they will surely be outresourced, outmanned, and paid signficantly less then their counterparts on the side of the prosecution. When I was a public defender, I was consistently paid about 1/3 less than the prosecutor. And, in my humble opinion, my job was a lot harder.
Anyway, another thing I find interesting is that the editorial measured success by the difference in sentences between the well-represented and the others. In other words, if you got less time, you had a good lawyer. I guess that makes sense but wouldn’t the crime and punishment defenders say – “all those muderers got less time, how is that better?” Just something to think about….