Boston Governor Proposes The Elimination Of Sufficient Legal Representation For Indigent Defendants- Attorney Sam’s Take

…And as we prance away from acknowledging the realities of the criminal justice system, we dance along with Governor Deval Patrick. His new proposed dance-step bows politely to law enforcement. It’s a nice dance, really. The only people likely to be hurt are the poor and disenfranchised. But then, if you follow the tune, you will realize that when they are accused of crimes, they are probably guilty anyway. So, perhaps still stinging from criticism that made him cave in the Parole Board fiasco, he is in no mood to consider them.

That’s right. It’s gonna be another one of those blogs.

We discussed this issue awhile ago. Massachusetts’ prosecutors are whining that those big bad criminal defense attorneys who are hired to represent indigent criminal defendantsr, after a proper nickel and diming and receiving only a fraction of what their work is worth, are making too much money. Never mind the vastly uneven playing field in which prosecutors who do not have anywhere near the professional expenses and yet have all of the resources available to their disposal. Forget about the fact that those poor crusaders of justice are able to support families and build a nest egg while their indigent-representing-opponents can barely meet the expenses that law enforcement agencies meet for the “good guys”.

Do you realize that those scourges of justice, the defense lawyers, have the temerity to believe that they ought to be able to meet expenses? Some such misanthropes even think they should earn a living!

Well, the governor has decided to solve the problem in true Shakespearean style. While he is not going so far as to “kill all the lawyers”, he is taking a dramatic stand with they who seem to have the power…law enforcement. Of course, there is not enough money to give better salaries to prosecutors yet, so why not crush the other side of the aisle a bit more? Who’s going to complain? The poor who depend on those attorneys for a chance at a fair trial? Oh, come on, now. Those professional vermin the defense attorneyes? Grow up!

The governor now wants to eliminate the use of private attorneys to represent indigent defendants. Aside from the relativly few full-time defenders, hired by the Committee For Public Counsel Services (CPCS), private defense attorneys have been accepting appointments from the court to represent indigent defendants at surprisingly low hourly rates. Said attorneys are chosen by CPCS because of their abilities and, often, experience in the courtroom.

Hence, of course, part of the problem. Who wants experienced criminal defense attorneys in the trenches when defendants are fighting for their freedom?

Patrick’s suggestion , which he plans to include in his fiscal year 2012 budget, would end the practice. The state instead would hire about 1,000 full-time staff attorneys to replace the 3,000 private lawyers the state draws on to represent poor people.

The Commonwealth somehow sees this as a way to save money. One wonders what these salaried attorneys would be paid, in addition to what benefits and free office space would cost…which, of course, the private bar advocates do not get.

Of course, the math kind of works when you remember that the 3000 bar advocates (who are already over-burdened) will be replaced by only 1000 attorneys.

Well, maybe the governor figures that the 1000 new attorneys will be virtual super men and women who have such vast training and experience that they can do three times the work. Whooops! I forgot about the part that said attorneys would usually be new attorneys rather recently graduated from law school.

Hm. Well, maybe the governor is banking on the exuberance of youth. Alternatively, maybe the governor and the prosecutors realize that if the defense attorneys don’t know alot, they cannot do alot!

On the more important bright side, at least the political prosecutors will be pleased. And, after all, the only ones being screwed, either than the lawyers, will be the indigent defendants.

Hell, do they even vote?

Previous to my 20+ years as a Boston criminal defense attorney, I was a prosecutor in New York. There, such a plan is in effect. The full time defense lawyers work for the Legal Aid Society. However, even they cannot handle all the indigent criminal defendants. Further, there are often conflicts of interests which prevent attorneys from the same organization representing certain clients. Therefore, private attorneys, such as those Governor Patrick seeks to eliminate, are necessary.

It is no surprise that the prosecutors are beside themselves with glee at this proposal. First of all, maybe it will free up some money to line their pockets a bit better. Second, indigent defendants will pose less of a threat in the courtroom.

Until the onslaught of successful appeals for ineffective assistance of counsel, that is.

You know, I get tired sometimes of clients who tell me that only people with money get a fair shot in the courtroom. They argue that the poor do not stand a chance..

I get tired of arguing with them.

It looks like, soon, I will not have to disagree.

I no longer do court appointed work. However, if you wish to consult me for a free initial consultation. I can be reached at t 617-492-3000.

To view the original story, and charming photograph about which parts of this blog were based, please go to :

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