Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I am a real attorney.

I'm still new enough that some of the usual occupational hazards really get to me.  Like, the "public defender vs. REAL attorney" illusion.
I have a very difficult client.  He is young, with a level of teenage recklessness and disregard that would lead me to tackle him rather than take the stand in his own defense.  (I know, I know, it's his choice, I can't prohibit him from it, yes yes, blah blah blah, but all you PDs out there know that you secretly desire to glue some clients to the seat rather than let him/her take the stand).  This case was on the trial track and was transferred to me.  Ick. 
So, I have to prep this case.  Is it a good trial case?  Do I beg / plead / cajole the DA into making an acceptable offer?  Do I have everything I need in this file?  I try 3 times to meet my client.  He stands me up every time except the third time, when he waltzed into my office FOUR HOURS LATE with no phone call, explanation, anything.  Luckily, I was in the office that day and had the time to meet with him.  We sat together for over an hour, analyzing and discussing his case.  I think the police were pretty rotten to him.  I think they used excessive force.  I also, however, think the case is a loser for my client.  I think there is a very good chance of conviction, as the only witnesses in this case are two police officers. 
I discuss the current plea deal with my client and recommend he take it.  It's not bad, but not great.  He was supposed to call me and talk to me about it.  I call the DA and wrangle out a better deal.  Excellent.  Now I feel better about my legal opinion as to what course of action my client should take.  I think this is a very good plea offer, although I still think the cops are jerks.
Today I show up and tell my client what the new offer is.  I also tell my client that I called him and was disappointed that he did not return my call to discuss his case.  Then he tells me the news I love to hear on the day of trial after exerting this level of energy - he's waiting for his attorney to show up.  His parents decided to hire an attorney instead.  His attorney, he tells me, told him that I would be more than happy to give up his case because I don't have enough time to take care of my cases.
My jaw hit the floor.
It's one thing for a client to want to hire an attorney because they believe that.  I'm fine with that - you're right, I have a lot of cases, and if you can pay for an attorney, then you should.  However, I believe that the defense bar should be a little more respectful of my work ethic and professionalism.  To tell a client that I'm screwing him because I'm too busy with other things is not something I would ever expect from another attorney. 


123txpublicdefender123 said...

You are right to be upset about that. And, in many states, such a statement is at the very least ethically questionable. I also have little to no doubt that the "real lawyer" will be only too happy to take credit for the good plea offer you secured for your client and collect his nice fee for doing nothing.

donzell said...

I understand your ire about what the private attorney said. I hear a lot of crap from private attorneys about public defenders in my neck of the woods. However, what I do not hear is how a lot of private attorneys screw over their paying clients to maintain their profit margins or because they do not have a clue to what they are doing.

Consigliere said...

If you are correctly quoting what was relayed to you, new counsel did not say you were screwing your client. Counsel did say you had a lot of cases.