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.