Wednesday, March 18, 2015

In Which Adam Reads His Least Favorite Comic Book Story Ever

Sometimes I like to save panels for personal use because I know they'll be funny later.  Like this little dandy:

You can see why that may be a fun thing to send to people who want me to do... well, pretty much anything.

I don't remember where that panel came from, but I can sure tell you where it didn't come from: A short-lived title called Public Defender in Action:

Yup!  He'll defend the indigent and disarm the bad guys without ever taking the pipe out of his mouth.

When you're a public defender, you hear a lot of nonsense because people have this weird notion about them.  This pretty much sums things up:

"It is an odd phenomenon familiar to all trial judges who handle arraignment calendars that some criminal defendants have a deep distrust for the public defender. This erupts from time to time in savage abuse to these long-suffering but dedicated lawyers. It is almost a truism that a criminal defendant would rather have the most inept private counsel than the most skilled and capable public defender. Often the arraigning judge appoints the public defender only to watch in silent horror as the defendant's family, having hocked the family jewels, hire a lawyer for him, sometimes a marginal misfit..." 

 See People v. Huffman, 71 Cal. App. 3d 63, 72, fn. 2, 139 Cal. Rptr. 264, 272 (1977)

And I always wondered where some people got that distrust.  I mean, your average public defender sees more court time in a month than many attorneys see in a year.  They're full-licensed lawyers who just happen to dedicate themselves to representing people who can't financially afford a private attorney.  They've gone to the same law school, passed the same bar exam, willingly work for a smaller amount of money than they could get in private practice in order to help people who need them the most.... I don't get it.

So you can imagine my reaction when I saw this:

WHAT?  This intro text really creeped me out.  But this was indeed the theme of the story:

Okay... let's be clear... it's true that a public defender is a public official.  But he or she is a public official bound by the same ethical code that any attorney has.  This means that a public defender does not look for information that would screw up their client's defense and they certainly wouldn't snitch to the prosecutor or the judge if they found any.  What no defense attorney can do is to put on fake evidence.  Nor can they knowingly allow a client to lie under oath (because that would be facilitating the crime of perjury).

But there is no requirement that you be innocent for the public defender to represent you.  You only have to be indigent.  No defense attorney, including one that works as a public defender, will have their license for long if they look for evidence to establish their client's guilt.

(A) I don't blame you, Cameron.  This guy is the worst public defender ever.

(B) I'm thinking this story was written without a lot of research into what a public defender is.  The public defender, like every defense attorney, tries to make sure their client receives a zealous defense.  If that means a guilty person "gets off" because procedural mistakes were made or the evidence doesn't support a conviction.... well, if you ever find a public defender who has a problem with that, please have them contact me.

Yikes!  I don't know what's in Manning's pipe, but he needs to change brands, if you know what I mean.

See you tomorrow!


Dave said...

In fairness, I'm guessing the other option for this comic was to have a 'real' PD who, after convincing a jury to free his guilty client, is seen throwing up in the courthouse men's room in self-disgust. It is a well known fact that the plumbing for courthouse toilets erodes at 500% the normal rate for precisely this reason.

Dave said...

I should maybe point out that I represent indigent defendants for a living and that last comment was meant to be ironic.

Adam Barnett said...

I hear you, Dave. Stupid due process, ruining our toilets...

wordsmith said...

Thanks (no snark) for defending the indigent, Adam. I'm indigent and have never needed the services of a public defender, but I'm glad that people like you exist to pour a little more fairness into our oddly-constructed legal system. (Mixed metaphor?)

Adam Barnett said...

Thank YOU, wordsmith. Justice for all!