Yesterday we received this call to arms:
Anonymous said... (in part)
HERE IS YOUR CHANCE AT TRUE GREATNESS FOR RUMPOLE AND HIS BLOG. The State of Florida has many priorities above and beyond abiding by the 6th Amendment to the U.S.Constitution. Why don't you step up to the plate and have all your blogger friends come up with all the waste in the state and county government which the State feels supersedes the representation of the poor and payment of the people in the system. I believe the Justice system in Florida, 1/3 of the three branches of government accounts for less than 5% of the State Budget. ...
Expose the fact that we are grossly underpaid and now the poor will suffer with experienced attorneys no longer willing to work for peanuts and having to wait months AFTER THE CASE IS FINISHED to be PAID. ..
Judges get 12000 a month, KFR and BB the same. Do a murder case for the state, get death threats, stress, criticism etc. and don't get paid and have to live off savings and credit. .. THE BUDGET FOR THE COURT SYSTEM SHOULD BE TRIPLED and spending 75 million a year on a bullet train study is an example of why SAPDS, COURT REPORTERS ETC. are told to f themselves. ..
By the way, aren't we the attorneys who keep chaos from happening- there aren't many super rich clients with super rich attorneys and that is usually federal court.
WE ARE THE SYSTEM. PERHAPS WE SHOULD STRIKE?
Rumpole responds: Now before you pull the signs and paint out of the garage, just settle down a minute.
To quote one of our favourite movies, “This is the business we have chosen.”
What we mean is that by practicing criminal law, we have traded a certain amount of financial security that large civil firms offer, for the enjoyment and satisfaction of practicing the type of law that we enjoy.
No one owes you a living. Nor is it your business what a Judge or another attorney earns. That is their private business.
However, you touch on certain valid points.
Entry level prosecutors are under paid. If we want a safer community, prosecutors should be paid a living wage. We remember one former ASA who wrote that at the end of the month he had to call in sick because it was a choice between feeding his child, or paying for gas. That is wrong.
If the government wants to warehouse humans convicted of crimes for decades if not life, then the government owes all of us the ability to insure that those people accused of crimes are being provided the best damn defense possible. We agree that as citizens we are entitled to the best damn prosecutors and well trained police officers. But for the system to work, the playing field must be level.
We have got to stop putting innocent people in jail.
I know certain distinguished prosecutors with the initials AL may disagree with us on the percentages. But we again postulate that if you extrapolate the number of INNOCENT people sentenced to death to the hundreds of thousands of inmates convicted of non-death penalty crimes, (where the level of post conviction scrutiny is not as high) there must be thousands, perhaps 10,000 innocent people in our prison system today. (Nationwide, not just Florida.)
No decent government can condone that sort of treatment of its citizens.
The system is broke, monetarily and systemically.
Here are some possible solutions.
1) This “conflict” business of the PDs has to stop. You mean to tell us that a top PD trial lawyer cannot represent a defendant because one of their PDs in county court represented a witness on a DUI? That dog won’t hunt.
2) If you did away with the court appointed attorney system, many criminal practitioners would have to move to a different area of the law. That is not a bad thing. That is economics at work. As many have pointed out, the court appointed system was designed as a way for successful practitioners to give something back, not as a primary way for attorneys to earn a living. (If you have ever wondered about our need for anonymity wait to you read the posts from our colleagues in response to this. )
4) If you set up a separate “conflict section” of the PDs office, you have your solution.
This is what the case law calls a “Chinese Wall” : when prosecutors in one part of their office are prosecuting a defendant who is a witness for the prosecution in another case. The PDs could do the same thing. Duh.
Give the PDs another $1,000,000.00 a year. Hire four or five attorneys plus support staff, and you are up and running with a new "conflict unit." Ok-make it two million and hire ten attorneys. Any way you slice it, it's cheaper than what we're spending now.
6) OR- because we don’t like death threats, you can just raise taxes and give private criminal defense attorneys another 50 million a year to divvy up.
Here is the real problem. When children are going hungry; when our kids are being shot at in the streets and are attending schools that have weapon screening at the doors; when the poor have no health care other than the Jackson ER room; when teachers can’t afford to buy a nice home; when the City of Miami and Metro Dade CANCELS our recycling service (boy are we peeved about that); do we really think that criminal defense is the number one priority?
Teachers, police officers, social workers, hospitals, libraries, schools, all play as important a part in our society and well being as we do; probably more.
And each one of those professions or institutions is in need of money.
Since we think the chance of adequate funding is about the same as Judge (insert name of your favourite judge here) being named to the 3rd DCA, then we as criminal defense attorneys have to accept that the system is broke and will not be fixed by throwing money at it.
There has to be another way. We can lead the way on this. We can make the system better. Stronger. More efficient. (Is anyone else having a flash back to the opening scenes of the 6 million dollar man TV show?)
See You In Court, not taking appointments.