Sunday, July 15, 2007


What Public Defender hasn’t heard that complaint from a putative client?

The NY Times has reported on a STUDY
in which Federal Public Defenders are measured against private lawyers appointed pursuant to the Criminal Justice Act. The study sampled cases in Federal districts in which PDs and CJA lawyers were randomly appointed meaning, the study said “ that the two sorts of lawyers had the same underlying distribution of guilt in the cases they represent and thus are equally likely to lose at trial.”

The results, not surprising to us, was that the PDs consistently achieved better and quicker results for their clients.

From the article:
Over all, defendants represented by court-appointed lawyers received sentences averaging about eight months longer. People convicted of violent crimes were given five more months, while those convicted on weapons charges received nearly a year and half more. But those convicted of

immigration offenses received sentences that averaged 2.5 months less if represented by appointed lawyers.
Appointed lawyers took longer to resolve cases through plea bargains — 20 days on average, a 10 percent difference.
“These results appear consistent with the hourly wage structure,” Ms. Iyengar wrote, as that structure creates incentives for appointed lawyers to take longer to resolve cases.

Rumpole says, this is a matter of economics, specialization, and experience. Federal PDs are hired with more experience than their state counterparts. Federal PDs are paid very well, and unlike the private CJA lawyers many of which cannot confine their practice to just handling federal cases 100% of the time, the PDs quickly gain more experience in the cases they are assigned to handle then the CJA lawyers.

Bottom line- there is nothing surprising about this study. Give an experienced lawyer a good salary and have them specialize in one area of the law like criminal defense, and there is no doubt that they will achieve better results than the jack of all trades. Think about it, if you needed a difficult surgery, would you go to a GP who dabbles in surgery, or a surgeon who specializes in the procedure you need? Even if that surgeon was working for say JMH, which is a public hospital, you would be better off with the surgeon every time.


Our favourite Federal Blogger has ruffled some feathers by suing the US Government to allow internet broadcasts of “cock fights” from Puerto Rico where it is legal. Mr. Markus, “ace defense attorney- cum- pugilistic Poultry provocateur” has incurred the wrath of the US Humane Society with his lawsuit. While we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of siding with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on this one, we hope Mr. Markus avoids becoming tarred and feathered in this cock and bull battle. If you see a lawyer scurrying from Federal Court being harassed by a large chicken protesting the lawsuit, lets us know, as we can then post a well deserved "I told you so."


Various news media outlets reported yesterday that Governor Crist has appointed the Dade State Attorneys office in investigations into Broward Judge Zack and former Judge Seidlin. Based on our post yesterday about possible improprieties with Judge Charlie Kaplan, can we expect the Dade SAO to form the “Broward Judicial Investigations Unit” which might just be known by its initials “The BJ Unit”? Hmmm…..

Can you just hear the Broward Judges complaining how Miami Judges don’t call their cases out of turn, set their cases for 8AM status conferences, and deny continuances the first time up?

From what we know that has been reported, we see a qualitative difference between the alleged acts of Judge Zack and Seidlin. Zack quite simply should have known better and will have to suffer the consequences (which we think should NOT be removal of office) for taking a loan from an attorney who appeared before him.
Seidlin on the other hand, whenever he wasn’t crying on the bench, or playing tennis, apparently had his sticky fingers in many pots- from receiving real estate favours from elderly neighbors, to sending lawyers on shopping trips for his wife. Selling his robes merits strong punishment, if in fact that is what happened here.

See You In Court tomorrow.


Jason grey said...

The result of the study are Bullshit.The study tracks two things, how much prison time the client got , and how long it took his lawyer to plead him in. Everyone who practices in federal court knows the earlier you plead guilty the less time you get, both because of guidlines constraints and because the Rat who takes the cheese first gets the best deal. If a defendant goes to trial, and is convicted she gets more time, and of course it takes longer.
I prefer try to figure out how I can win before I consider counseling a client that a guilty plea may be in order.
It is a shame that practice in Federal court has devolved so that the measure of success seems to be that a guy who does a few months less prison time then the next guy had a better lawyer.
Mabey they will change the law and allow defendants in federal court to plead guilty at arrainment, They could give the defendant an extra point off and save a ton of time and money on printing all that pesky discovery. wow,the justice department can hardly wait

Anonymous said...

Rump, you seem to imply that a different outcome would be expected if you compared SAPDs to State PDs. I completely disagree. As an ASA, I know that PDs routinely get better deals for their clients than SAPDs. SAPDs are quick to plead their clients to state prison if it means ending the case and getting paid. PDs are not. The average PD is also waaaaay better in trial than the average SAPD. All ASAs know this. That's why beating the PD is seen a real victory, while beating some chump SAPD is seen as expected.

Rumpole said...

Not at all. Using our own courthouse and my observations, on a random basis, you are more likely to get a better and more epxerienced lawyer from the PDs office than the SAPD wheel. Now that is painting with a broad brush. The SAPDs who handle death cases are for the most part excellent lawyers. And the PDs in county court, are for the most part new and inexperienced lawyers, at least when they start out.

But that group in the middle- the attorneys who handle the B and A level cases, I think the PDs are by far the better group of lawyers.

I think the diparity is less apparent in Federal Court in Miami, where there are talented lawyers in the PDs office and on the CJA panel. We have the cases here for everyone to get experience. But when you get to the less populated areas of the Country, say Vermont, Upstate NY, the Plains States, you are more likely to get a lawyer who has more experience and is better qualified from the Federal PDs office, then a general practitioner who thinks "what the hay, I'll make a few bucks doing some criminal stuff. How hard can it be?"

Anonymous said...

saying that pd's get better deals because they are better lawyers the sapd's is a rediculous comment. pd's get better deals beacause they have huge case loads before the same judge and prosecutor.

Anonymous said...

I've had the opportunity to work with several members of the PDO in my division over the last couple of months--all extremely hardworking, passionate and conscientious about their job. Two in particular stood out and neither is a member of the PD's office yet much less a member of the Florida Bar. One is a CLI on leave to take the Bar exam in a couple of weeks and the other a law student (sharp as they come) that is returning to finish his last year of school. Guy, Bobby and Teresa should be commended for their fine work.

Joe Fernandez

Anonymous said...

They get better deals bc they can spell, too

Rumpole said...

I don't know if I can prove PDs get better deals than SAPD lawyers. I do know I have tried cases with both, and I'd take the random PD over the random SAPD lawyer in a Miami minute.

Rumpole said...

If you have to spend a hot Sunday inside rather than on your boat dodging thunderstorms, you could a lot worse than watching Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Anonymous said...

Oh jason he's so fine, he's so fine he blows my mind, oh jason, oh oh oh jason!


I don't know about this Q stuff, but Sig Hansen of the Deadliest Catch RULES!

Chris said...

Alan, are you OK? Do you fear the Q or respect the Q, or both or neither?


I don't know Jack about Q
but this blog is

Anonymous said...

Hey Rumpy lets do a roast- the topic is Broward Judges. I'll start.

I was late for Broward court the other day. The Galleria mall doesn't open until 11.

But at least when I got there they were very helpful. An older gentlemen valet parked my car and offered to wash it for 20 bucks. Judge Zack does a great job washing and waxing.

The Judge was great though. Granted my motion for downward depature ....all I had to do was give him a ticket for a choo choo train ride. Thanks Judge Kaplan.

Anonymous said...

"the random sapd lawyer?"
rumpole, most sapd lawyers are former x public defenders and x state attys.

if true, do private attys become less talented when they go private?

the pd will always get the better deal because they control the court by the # of cases they handle. not to mention home court advantage.\

that said, the pd's office has talent in the pits.

E IS4ME said...

Screw the Q

Be the E

Anonymous said...

meet the new members of the reginal conflict office:

naftalee wachs
the q
the e
ms. suitcase
the w of the pdo

Alan said...

Chris, as we are not prosecutors, there is no reason to "dear the Q".
As defense attorneys we can admire the Q. But there is no reason to close our eyes and become the Q.

See ya little buddy.

Anonymous said...

556...that could be because the GOOD former asa's and pd's, other than death qualified folks, do not take appointments

Rumpole said...

The problem I see is a lot of sapd attorneys who are neither former pds or asa's. Or if they are a former pd or asa they worked there for a yeare and think they learned everything there is to know.

Anonymous said...

put down the crack pipe.

Anonymous said...

"shame that the 'good" private lawyers dont take sapd cases."

let me name a few (all former sao/pdo):

david s markus
phil r
stu adelstein
mike matters
david peckins
jay levine
steve bustamante

but, absent are names like:

john thornton
david rothman
milt hersch
brian tannebaum
sam rabin

there are plenty of good privates, they just dont take sapd cases cause they are too busy making money, self-promoting, or sucking up at Bar meetings.

Anonymous said...

8:37 - Ass Hole.

Many of the names you listed take appointments in Fed. Ct., at a large loss of money, compared to what they would charge for a fed. case. They are not like you, who will take as many cases as possible. These guys take a limited number of cases, so when they accept CJA appointments, they are in fact really loosing money.

Anonymous said...

The people who make a living off court appointments don't want more lawyers taking appointments, it dilutes their income.

And Steve Bustamante no longer takes appointments, he is a full time pd.

brian tannebaum said...

8:37a.m., you are absolutely correct. The acceptance of an appointment to an indigent defendant is something all criminal defense lawyers, and even some civil lawyers who have criminal experience. should consider.

I ceased accepting appointments as a SAPD in 2004 when the State took over payment and JAC became involved. Why? because I saw what was coming and did not want to be a part of a system that would cause me to spend more time getting paid than representing a client. Until then, I was on the wheel. I still accept appointments in the federal system.

Although I am not on the state court "wheel," (now the former wheel), I do accept appointments and have over the past 3 years in cases where judges have been unable to find counsel for various reasons, including the difficulty of the defendant.

You state that people like me do not take appointments because we are "too busy making money, self-promoting, or sucking up at Bar meetings."

Yes, I am too busy working for privately retained paying clients to spend my time dealing with a bureaucracy that undervalues the role of the criminal defense lawyer, therefore, I do these cases on a limited basis, pro bono.

As far as self-promoting, or sucking up at Bar meetings, I don't think anyone you mentioned, including me, advertises or sends mailers to potential clients.

And yes, I attend a lot of bar meetings, can't remember "sucking up" at any of them, to anyone.

the trialmaster said...

i say to kathy, sic von zamfpt on those broward judges.......

Anonymous said...

Who the F*** is the "the q" and why should we care?

Anonymous said...

Interesting note.

Funny to see some allegedly civic minded defense attorneys on the list of folks not taking SAPD cases.......I guess the point of the 8:37 post is that these folks will only do service that promotes their image. Not much of a sacrifice when you look at it that way.

I'm not judging..........just noting the obvious implication of the post. I'd love to hear the listed attorneys respond to that. Knowing a couple of them like I do, I'm sure they have a good response and would hate to see the implication left hanging.

Phil R said...

Thanks to whomever included me as a good lawyer.

I stopped taking criminal appointments in anything but death cases probably around 1995. I (thankfully) have never had a client sentenced to death. Therefore, the most any client has ever received is life in prison (2 of those on sapd cases). The state paid for my time however long it took, although I earned less than the plumber and electrician I am currently employing to renovate my house. Contrast that to representing some 20 year old kid charged with armed robbery and facing extensive time as a perp or Gort. For having that 20 year old kid's life in my hands, the state was paying 3,500.00. There is just no way I could spend the time necessary to give that kid the best defense for that kind of money on a regular basis.
If the state wants to enact all these draconian sentences, they need to pay for quality representation. Some other people on here have made the point that I fully agree with- if so many people are being exonerated with DNA evidence in eyewitness cases, what about those eyewitness cases where there is not DNA? Granted many people are guilty, but simple statistics tells you a percentage are wrongfully convicted. With 2 million plus americans incarcerated, 1 percent wrongfully convicted means there are 20,000 people serving sentences for something they didn't do. We can decrease that number with better representation, but that will only come with higher fees. In a society that just watsed 1/2 a trillion dollars on a war we didn't need, and with health care looimg as a 100 billion dollar a year boondongle, the future looks bleak for higher fees for indigent representation. No politican ever got elected promising to do something for those poor underpaid criminal defense attorneys.

Phil R said...

Oh, and unlike my friend, colleague, and client (not guilty on an illegal left turn case) Brian Tannebaum, I do not go to bar meetings, although I don't think Brian "sucks up" at the meetings. My understanding is he goes for the free food and liquor.

Anonymous said...

did you get my 3.4 million post? if not, please inform so i can repost. it's a beauty.

Rumpole said...


Someone has sent me an email purporting to list the salaries of the public defenders. This is apparently public record. Is there anything untoward with allowing this comment on the blog?

untoward \uhn-TORD\, adjective:
1. Not favorable or fortunate; adverse.
2. Improper; unseemly.
3. Hard to guide, work with, or control; unruly

Anonymous said...

the salary of every state employee is public record. Question is, what does it matter what people make?

Oh, nevermind, I forgot the crowd I was dealing with.

Anonymous said...

I say post the salaries Rumpole. Can we get the state attorneys list also?

Anonymous said...

COngrats to Phil R. on his victory today. As to BT, he may not be the most pleasant guy you will encounter everyday (and he is actually a funny and down-to-earth guy) but he busts his ass for his clients, he serves the legal community like very few will take the time to do and he will help ANYONE that needs help.

Anonymous said...

Yes, untoward it would be.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Yoda

Anonymous said...

I think there are some very good trial lawyers in the state pd office. What is sad is that these lawyers often do not get the recognition or responsibility that they deserve. There are a few pds that I would choose any day - especially if I thought the case would win at trial, because they are not afraid to push the state into trial. I've seen one female pd go to trial on an almost weekly basis, speak with police officers as if they were old friends, argue successful motions, and heard comments that people are surprised she is a pd and not a private lawyer. Her professionalism and friendly demeanor, while still being tough as nails, should be an example for other pds. Strangely, even though this pd is very smart and talented in trial, the higher ups at the office have left her in county court for a very long time, as they have with other promising attorneys. This to me shows that the office does not really know what is happening in the trenches, or the good talent that exists in the office. Plus, perhaps if the pd office altered the way it trained its lawyers, perhaps the public distinction or stigma would start to disappear.

Anonymous said...

as long the ss# is not listed-post them

Anonymous said...

wh0 let Phil. R out of his cage?

Anonymous said...

my post of the pd #'s was fair considering the topic of discussion. you did not post it.

therefore, i fart in your general direction.