I've been getting quite a bit of mail about the recent posts about the St. Petersburg Times series on public defenders. Interestingly much of it has focused on a point I made about Charley Demosthenous's education and bar passage record, and most of it seems to misunderstand my point.
PD talking with a juvenile client
So let me try again: I think PD's do the most righteous work in the world. I was one for almost 15 years and continue to do indigent defense work to this day. My point isn't about Charley's education--it is about the St. Petersburg Time's editorial decisions. What appalls me about the series is not that Charley seems to be a kindly, vaguely pugilistic hack who is getting his chops working at the PD's office because the prosecutors wouldn't hire him--while I wish there weren't such people doing this sacred work, I accept it as the occasional reality--but rather that the newspaper picked him to follow and him as a placeholder for all of us. That editorial decision is unforgivable. My point is not that PD's need any particular qualification, but rather that they are constantly portrayed as bottom feeders rather than the highly skilled, deeply dedicated and terrifically passionate people they are. Had they at least picked someone who cared about clients rather than his own manliness, it might have been passable. Instead the series is insufferable.