Next Installment

South Florida Public Defender Cliche-Fest Four continues tomorrow with the next installment of the utterly predictable adventures of Charley Demosthenous the low rent public defender on a personal quest to become a "man" by doing a jury trial.

Charley in his office

The entire premise of this series is offensive--worthless shit lawyer seeks personal redemption in thankless job he doesn't really care about. And though there are a few nice throw away lines about the clients (mostly guilty of course and generally disagreeable) and even a few cute details about Charley's feuds with the asinine prosecutors, there is nothing to suggest systemic failure or shortcoming, nothing at all about the politicization of the judiciary, the revolting antics of corrupt prosecutors, or the misuse of bail to coerce pleas. Instead this series relentlessly panders to every criminal justice cliche: The defense lawyers would rather be prosecutors, The clients are faceless and almost always described solely in terms of their alleged crimes, The PD's are poorly dressed and see jury trials as about their own skills rather than the fate of the clients...

Nowhere are there dedicated well credentialed lawyers like those at The Bronx Defenders.

Imagine what a different piece it might have been if it followed Jake Stevens, one of our senior trial lawyers--a man who went to Harvard undergrad, NYU law school, speaks three languages, and loves his clients, or Josh Bowers who clerked for the second circuit, and left one of the most prominent white-collar criminal firms to do god's work in the South Bronx. Imagine for a moment a piece that bothered to look at how they integrate into a criminal practice the work of BDX social workers like Jenny Crawford (Columbia School of Social Work and also Bi-lingual) Such a piece might actually have had something meaningful to say about the criminal justice system instead of simplistically situating an idiotic coming of age story in a PD office.

Let's be clear, the argument above has nothing to do with whether someone with a fancy pedigree will be a better public defender than someone from a third tier school, but it does have to do with dispelling the cliche that only poorly qualified people become Public Defenders and that most PD's are in the work for self-agrandizment.

Thanks to Mike Hope for the tip.


topsixrows said...

I don't disagree about the way PDs are portrayed...

But using a term like US New's "third tier" bull shit is telling.

As long as lawyers buy into lawyers and law schools being classified by prestige, how is the general public suppose to think differently?

Florida is a police state and the Gulf coast has a cow town mentatlity.

topsixrows said...

and Tampa is not south Florida.

Anonymous said...

Of course, you're not saying that those of us in the Missouri PDs office are crap, or at least I hope not. I don't think just because one cannot afford to go to NYU or Harvard should mean that one is not a good PD or zealous advocate for their clients.

We are overworked, underpaid, and I wish like hell that we had more respect from both our clients and the public. Stupid articles and shows like that shite TV show that you wrote about before don't help one bit. Many of us graduated high up in our class, or had the ability to go other places and make much better money, but have dedicated ourselves to PD work, instead.

Please I'm begging you not to equate those of us in the red state sticks with the PDs who don't give a crap, because we do, and some of us think we work even harder because every goodamn thing we get is an uphill battle because of where we live.

-- Jerritt

Anonymous said...

What a load of gutless, spineless crap. Maybe people have this perception about PDs because most are in fact like Charley and this is all they could do. Your Bronx Defenders group, while an interesting amalgamation of queers, leftists, and social workers, hardly rebuts the point of the Tampa Times article. In fact, it's probably the exception that proves the rule. The fact that some malcontent, social misfit, revolutionary types like yourself became or are PDs doesn't change the fact that most are not like that, and are simply low-achievers who can't find honest work.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, Your post was filled with such invective that I am trying to figure out what you are saying. Perhaps you should think before you write.

Well, I have had experience all over the country in various capacities. There are a number of Pds offices that follow the Bronx-defenders-type model. That is, they are able to recruit and train highly-qualified people from “top” schools with the “credentials” that everyone loves to have.

There are some (and often they are in warmer states) that seem to not be able to do this. Perhaps it is because they don’t have any “superstars” that would draw people to them. Perhaps it is because they are not in a city with a lot of people that can afford to work for small salaries. Perhaps it is because their management prefers mediocrity. (I know this is the situation in one large PD’s office.)

Secondly, while it is all well and good to say that one “couldn’t afford” to go to a “top” school, everyone really knows that most people finance law school and/or could have gotten grants. For this reason, nobody really believe it when someone says this.

Mr. Anonymous, You don’t know how many homosexuals work for the Bronx PDs. I don’t either. Perhaps you can tell me how many you have had gay sex with, so that we could get a percentage. Otherwise, you are just throwing around big words, because you hate America. Already terrorists have read your comments and will take heart in how weak America is.

I am also not sure how many (if any) Social Workers the Bronx defenders employs. Maybe you know. If you just said it without any basis, you are helping the terrorists.

Finally, calling someone a “leftist” has no place in legal discourse. That is a political term meant for the lay people, and it is a form of treason to be a lay person.

However, I am curious to know what kind of legal work a lay person like you considers to be “honest”?

(As you can tell, I rarely talk to lay people, so excuse my language, but your kids is usually regarded as stupid to real people.)