"From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him."
JUSTICE HUGO L. BLACK
Gideon v. Wainwright (1963)
Yesterday I met with FACDL-Miami's 'limited registry task force' to discuss our next steps in the fight against the government's efforts to institutionalize ineffective assistance of counsel. We talked about fundamental rights, procedures, plans of action and bottom lines. I could not help but think of the above quote and the reality that the financial limits imposed on attorneys by thelimited registry effectively forces a poor man charged with a crime to face his accuser with something far worse than no attorney: one who is either unwilling or unable to actually defend him. Fifty years after Gideon, the legislature has created a system that intentionally or otherwise, operates to ensure that effective assistance, in most cases, is impossible. It rewards attorneys who will not provide meaningful assistance and worse still, it ensures that those who would are unable to do so.
Some of you have asked whether our efforts have resulted in potentially greater rewards for those who would not stand with us when we refused to join the limited registry; the short answer is yes. In a perfect world, after our victory, each member of the limited registry would transfer back to the general registry. In this, the real world, our recommendation for those of you who havestood firm is this: join the limited registry . Use the surrender stipulation that JAC signed as your sword and shield. We are encouraging FACDL Miami members to join and to demand compensation above the cap each and every time you deserve it as dictated by your time, efforts, and ethics. Accept cases and provide the meaningful representation that you, as a defense attorney have sworn to deliver to all of your clients. When you find a case that isn't complex or unusual or extraordinary, accept the flat fee. In every other case, file for what the JAC has stipulated Makemson demands: actual effective representation of every defendant and fair compensation for their attorney, even in limited registry cases.
Everyone at FACDL is keenly aware of the economic situation that each of you has dealt with during the last year. We, along with all those who believe in the vital role of the defense attorney, appreciate the sacrifice that has been made for the greater good. As long as the limited registry exists, we pledge to continue working toward its dismantling even if protecting the ideals we hold dear comes at a financial cost. For now, we hope that you will join us in diluting the systemic flaws of the limited registry by ensuring that every defendant stands equal before the law, something that will never happen without a quality attorney by his side who demands to be compensated for protecting his client and in doing so, the Constitution.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or if you would like to help in fighting the limited registry at the next level, please feel free to contact me directly.