WELCOME TO THE OFFICIAL RICHARD E GERSTEIN JUSTICE BUILDING BLOG. THIS BLOG IS DEDICATED TO JUSTICE BUILDING RUMOR, HUMOR, AND A DISCUSSION ABOUT AND BETWEEN THE JUDGES, LAWYERS AND THE DEDICATED SUPPORT STAFF, CLERKS, COURT REPORTERS, AND CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS WHO LABOR IN THE WORLD OF MIAMI'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE. POST YOUR COMMENTS, OR SEND RUMPOLE A PRIVATE EMAIL AT HOWARDROARK21@GMAIL.COM

Monday, December 04, 2006

COVERAGE CONFUSION

There is a growing cancer in criminal law.
It feeds on the corpus of a profession that was once populated by individual lawyers who defended those who were scorned by society. The rugged individualist who appeared to defend the accused was once a common sight in our profession. However, like the mom and pop hardware store, individual criminal defense lawyers are being driven out of business by the Home Depot equivalent of defense firms.


We are talking about the practice of COVERAGE.

COVERAGE means this: Take your average ticket defense law firm. With cases is almost every courthouse in Dade and Broward there is no way any single lawyer can appear everywhere at once. Nor is it economically possible for the Ticket Law Firm to employ the army of lawyers necessary to cover all their cases. So a system of coverage arose, where independent contractor-lawyers staked out their own territory like a pitbull guarding a bone. The Law Firm then gave the coverage lawyer the tickets for the week, and they were charged a small per/ticket fee.

There is nothing wrong with this system for tickets.

However, the system has spread to the point where we are told that it is now common for there to be several “coverage lawyers” for most misdemeanor calendars.


The principle is the same.
The Misdemeanor Law Firm floods the market with advertising and direct mailing to people who were arrested. The clients are charged a nominal fee for their case.
The Firm soon gets dozens of clients for every Monday trial calendar. Rather than defending the case in the normal manner, the Firm hires lawyers who will cover the misdemeanor cases for a per/case fee.

This system does a disservice to the client because the coverage lawyer does not have a file, does not have discovery, has not filed motions, and is generally unprepared to do anything other than seek a dismissal if the witnesses do not show, or enter a plea of guilty if the prosecution is ready for trial.

COSTCO COMES TO CRIMINAL LAW.

Nothing good can come of this. It demeans the practice of law, and it does not provide good low cost legal services to individuals who cannot otherwise afford it.
There is a marked difference between a prepared attorney and a warm body in a suit standing next to a client. For the most part, the coverage law firms and coverage attorneys only provide the latter.

The question is why are judges, mostly County Court Judges, allowing attorneys who have not filed a notice of appearance to appear in a case?

Now of course it is one thing to have a friend cover a case when a lawyer is ill or in trial. It is however, quite another matter to have a lawyer who is running a firm, and signing the pleadings to NEVER appear in court, and send lawyers that are not members of the firm and are not familiar with the cases.

Certain Bar Rules may apply here, including:

RULE 4-1.1 COMPETENCE: A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.

We know that several lawyers make their living from coverage.
We are not out to get them or cost them a job.
There should be some sort of resolution here.
Perhaps the Bar should set some guidelines, including the requirement that all clients sign a retainer agreement that clearly specifies that the attorney they are hiring will not be the attorney who appears in court.

But as it now stands, lawyers who engage in mass mailing, and offer cheap legal services and hire coverage lawyers, are turning the practice of criminal law into COTSCO. Our profession is demeaned by this, and the clients are not getting decent legal services.

See You In Court, ducking curses from coverage attorneys.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

WHAT? This is OUTRAGEOUS - you must post the names and numbers of these "coverage lawyers" so that all of us can know who they are. Please do it immediately so I can decide who I'm going to use from now on. I need to play more golf.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing wrong with a coverage attorney.

Tickets lawyers piss me off because they promise no points or your fee money back.

What is wrong is the ticket laywers who never speak with the clients, and trade big court costs to guaranty a with hold so they do not have to give back the fee.

It all makes me sick to watch them do it.

Anonymous said...

You mean Jonathan Schwartz does not provide competent representation to his clients?

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, it is truly you and the other high priced over rated lawyers who have caused what you call a "costco" way of handling cases.

Just like meical care PPO and HMO people have to make ends meet and if hiring joe blow to handle a misdemeanor for a small fee before hiring some over priced dick head like you I am all for it.

I remember telling someone that I don not want a doctor at a community hospital there in a life or death situation and I was kindly reminded that all doctors must attend college and graduate before they become doctors.

It has become harder to become a lawyer in Florida. The Bar exame is tougher and weeds out those simply not ready to be a lawyer. I would prefer a young lawyer today then a old hack like you who probally was druck when he took the bar exame way back in the day and passed because the exame was easy than.

Rumpole, whats wrong cant pay your bills. Those who know you outside this blog have come to realize that you are a low like hack that most bloggers here have discovered.

Would you look at the time.

Anonymous said...

thats gonna leave a mark

Anonymous said...

The once Honorable Practice of Law,at least in the County Court of Dade County has turned into a business.The clients do not know whom their attorneys are when they come to court;they have not spoken to their attorneys;often times the attorneys fasil to appear nor do they have even a coverage attorney present and the list of failures can go on.

A few judges have voiced their concern,but not enough.A few judges speak of the problem in open court but not enough.The Florida Bar doesn't care,just as they do not particularly care of the promises made by attorneys from the traffic clinics.A judge years ago voiced concern,but no changes occurred.

We,the attorneys who practice in our profession and care about our reputations should start to speak out.

Anonymous said...

who said crime doesnt pay?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8:12, you went to a 4-year university, got a degree, and then 3 years of law school, and you can't spell or use proper grammar if your life depended on it...that, or you are blogging while drunk...I suspect the latter. Pity your clients...

Anonymous said...

the difference between cheap and expensive lawyers is that cheap lawyers have more cases and expensive lawyers have less cases.

Cheap lawyers do their best to get rid of cases and could care less if the client's happy because they advertise and dont care about referral sources.

Criminal defense has become a business to many, thats why deep down, we all hate each other - we're just out for the allmighty dollar. When people are just out for money, they'll do anything.

Rumpole said...

An inebriated blogger slurred:

I would prefer a young lawyer today then a old hack like you who probally was druck when he took the bar exame way back in the day and passed because the exame was easy than.

Rumole responds: While the remainder of your post goes on to accuse me of being a hack (a term I apply to myself) based on "those who know me", I must admit that for the first time i am very concerned about my identity. How did you know I was "druck" when I took the bar?

Anonymous said...

Rumpole, dont be concerned about your identity. Nothing to fear, we all know who you are, we're just being nice.

Anonymous said...

get real all any attorney does is have the paralegal or some intern pop up a standard fill in the blanks motion with in seconds no effort.

Unless the prosecution will take it to trial which these low fee lawyers charge a separate fee for trial work and so do you Rumpole the case is basically child play.

Rumpole get off your high horse and tell us the truth lawyers dont do shit and get paid. The only reason you are crying is because you cant get big bucks for bull shit no more, because bull shit is now wholesale!!

Perry Mason said...

What is sad is that the coverage attorney comes into court, and does not know who his or her client is; then tells the client the plea that is being offered is in the best interest of the client; and the lawyer only met the client 5 minutes before the plea.

Judge Brandies said...

How about the lawyer who calls out for the client, and the client tells the lawyer, "You are not my lawyer!"

Knew It At A Young Age ... said...

Sadly, many lawyers have gone into the practice of law to make money, period.

There was a day when lawyers weren't comprised of (semi?)-smart kids who didn't know what they wanted to do when they graduated college. It was populated by folks who knew deep down in their bones that this is what they wanted to do and figured out that they would be good at it (think people like Roy Black, Jay Hogan, pre-judicial Stan Blake and many like them).

For those of you non-lawyers out there the message is clear:

1. Ask “are you the lawyer who will be representing me in court?” “Are you willing to guarantee that?”
2. Do your homework before hiring an attorney. Avoid the mills that "churn and burn" their cases and find the lawyers who work hard at crafting their profession and defending their clients. You’ll be able to find one in your price range, whether it is an entry level person or someone at the top of the profession. Sure, guys like Roy are expensive, but with your ass on the line, you want them if you can afford it.

Rumpole said...

For people who supposedly believe in the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt, everyone seems to know who I am, except that no one does. There is not one shred of evidence as to my identity. What a bunch of mopes.

PS- I write all my motions.

Justice Is Blind said...

I have seen young lawyers, not much older than their college clients plead them out on misdemeanor charges that will effect their clients after college, when the case could be won. Then these young lawyers, told the judge, "I am covering for ....... "
I sure hope they have coverage insurance......

Anonymous said...

we believe in the presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt, and many of us know who you are, the 3 are not mutually exclusive. Chin up, it lasted longer than you thought Ole Rump

Anonymous said...

bottom line is that people get what they deserve - hiring lawyers based on ads and price is the same as voting for politicians based on ads and promises.

Uneducated consumers are the target everytime.

Anonymous said...

LOOK YOU PAY FOR WHAT YOU GET?

SOMETIMES YOU PAY BIG BUCKS FOR A DUFUS WHO IS JUST LOOKING FOR A FOOL CLIENT WHO HAS $$$ BUT NO IDEA WHAT LAWYER IS BETTER .

I ALWAYS TELL PEOPLE LOOKING FOR A LAWYER TO:

1. CHECK THE FLORIDA BAR WEB SITE AND TYPE IN THE NAME OF THE LAWYER AND SEE HOW LONG HE HAS BEEN A MEMBER OR THE FLORIDA BAR.

2. CALL THE FLORIDA BAR AND ASK IF THERE IS ANY PENDING OR FORMER BAR COMPLAINTS AND FOR WHAT.

3. CHECK THE FLORIDA BAR WEB SITE FOR LAWYERS WHO ARE CERTIFIED IN THE FIELD OF LAW THAT CONCERNS THE CASE. CERTIFICATION IS A BIG DEAL (OK STOP SCREAMING AT ME BLOGGERS)....

4. ALWAYS MEET WITH AT LEAST 3 LAWYERS AND NEVER I MEAN NEVER DO A HOURLY RATE......ALWAYS DO A FLAT FEE RATE BASED ON SEVERAL CONDICTIONS:

A. FLAT RATE BASED ON IF WE DONT GO TO TRIAL (PLEA OR DISMISSAL).

B. FLAT RATE BASED ON TRIAL AND DISCOVERY ETC.

of course expenses are not included.

Hourly rate yea right I remember 18 years ago in New York City I did the hourly rate gag and my bill looked like this:

$150 for the loser lawyer per hour for a telephone conversation and because loser lawyer asked hotshot lawyer to get on the phone to hear what I just told him another $250 for his listening in on the call.

Yea ......

Anonymous said...

We do that all the time conferance calls with several lawyers at the firm with a client all at one time.

Its great for padding the bill on a slow month or Christmas holiday.

Anonymous said...

Crimes were committed to punish crimes, and crimes were committed to prevent crimes. The world has been filled with prisons and dungeons, with chains and whips, with crosses and gibbets, with thumbscrews and racks, with hangmen and heads-men - and yet these frightful means and instrumentalities have committed far more crimes than they have prevented.... Ignorance, filth, and poverty are the missionaries of crime. As long as dishonorable success outranks honest effort - as long as society bows and cringes before the great thieves, there will be little ones enough to fill the jails. ~Robert Ingersoll, Crimes Against Criminals

Anonymous said...

As an ASA, I've long thought that often times, the worst punishment a defendant receives is not the nearly inevitable PTI, CTS, or probation plea the State is offering, but having to shell out $$$ for an attorney who never shows up to Court, treats his client like shit when he does show up, and does nothing to get his client a better deal than the standard PTI, CTS, or probation plea the State almost always offers. Sucker, I think to myself, that'll teach you to break the law. Should have gotten yourself a public defender...

Anonymous said...

the trialmaster says ,i really dont give a rat's ass about this coverage issue. it is an issue for "bottom feeders" and not for the trialmaster. if is appear in county court it means i have a $25,000 fee....

Anonymous said...

trialmaster

you are the greatest. your full of shit also. only a couple of lawyers in town can get away with 25k for a misd. and your not one of them. now pluck your head out of your ass.
p.s. are you cristos lagos?

Anonymous said...

Trialmaster must be Eiglarsh.

Anonymous said...

to the 10:22 blogger: MEOW!!!

Anonymous said...

Horace, are you Scott Fingerhut? You "sound" like The Finger...

Anonymous said...

Civil firms have been using "coverage" attorneys for years. It's just that in those firms the person has a desk with a name plate and they are called an "associate." How often does somebody who hires Greenberg, Tripp, Ruden, Davis, Bigshot, etc. actually get one of those attorneys? More often the newbie attorney who knows nothing of the case is sent in to do the motion for summary judgment, etc.

spellingbchamp said...

rumpy, you should really consider getting a spell check icon for all these geniuses...
huked on fonicks wurked fer mee

Anonymous said...

7:46 ASA, if i take time to investigate the case properly, the plea of pti of cts is often off the table. think about it.

Anonymous said...

Most judges don't voice their concerns about "coverage lawyers", because they depend on them for re-election contributions. Most cater to them by resetting pretrial conferences or trials even when there is no "coverage attorney".
Why don't clients file bar complaints, because most of them don't even know when their lawyer doesn't show up, since judges/hearing officers just reset and reset. Why don't these defendants get their licenses suspended or bench warranted like the rest of the poor slobs who if they fail to show up to court on time get in trouble. MONEY buys a lot of justice!