Fifty years after Gideon and the right to counsel, public defenders are overworked
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02/12/14 Samuel Johnson
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Tags: Gideon, public defender, indigent defense, Bruce Jacob, Stetson Law School, pro bono, minimum sentencing, Supreme Court

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In the U.S. every person accused of crime has the right to legal representation. That’s thanks to a landmark 1963 Supreme Court decision in a case called Gideon versus Wainwright. The rights solidified in Gideon were celebrated last night at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport.

Stetson Law professor and Dean Emeritus Bruce Jacob was working for the Attorney General of Florida in 1963. Jacob was assigned the task of writing the legal brief and arguing this landmark case on behalf of the State. Before the panel discussion, Jacob said the core of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling extended the right to counsel to the poor and everyone else.

“The question is whether the right to counsel; whether the right in felony cases every defendant, regardless of the circumstances of the case should automatically be entitled to counsel for his defense. Before that there was a rule that the Supreme Court had ruled in a case called Betts v. Brady that counsel must be appointed if under the facts of the case it would be difficult for the defendant to obtain a fair trial without having counsel. And in that situation counsel had to be appointed. But in the case where you had, say, a lawyer who was charged with a crime, who knew how to defend himself the state would not have to pay for a defense lawyer.”

About 100 people watched documentary about Gideon and heard from a panel discussion from experts that public defenders are overwhelmed with work. Because every defendant must have representation, the average workload for public defenders is often 10-times higher than recommended by advocacy groups and think tanks. Christopher Durocher, with the Washington D.C. based think tank Constitution Project, said this limits their ability in giving adequate counsel.

“And what that essentially means is that they have about enough time to learn their clients name; communicate to them the prosecution has offered a plea; and then recommend whether they should take the plea...based on no investigation of the case; no examination of their client's criminal history and potential consequences of a guilty plea in that particular case. So what you get is what's called Meet 'em and Plead 'em. Where you don't really have representation.”

One option to lessen the workload of the public defenders would be to require other attorneys to volunteer their time to defend people who can’t afford a lawyer. Chris Pietruszkiewicz, Dean of the College of Law at Stetson, said each law student is required to put in 60 hours of pro bono legal work, which helps familiarize them with legal ethics.

“Well, you know; it's the value of the legal education but also the values we want to instill in these students that come to law school here. So a big part of that is, yes, part of it is a top-down piece. We are requiring students to have 60 hours of pro bono service. What that doesn't say is that all the students that do a 100, 150 or 200 hours pro bono service. So we're merely setting the floor and our impact on the community is so much greater because the students do as many hours as they can. The don't just do it by themselves; they also do it with our faculty and staff who very much participate in this process.”

Practicing attorneys could lend more pro bono hours to representing indigent defendants. The modern complexities of criminal law restrict many attorneys from devoting more volunteer time. Bruce Jacob, the professor who argued the case in front of the Supreme Court, said he remembers when this wasn’t the case.

“Back when I was first practicing almost every lawyer I knew had been appointed by the court to handle a case for no fee. Lawyers all expected to be called to represent a defendant without pay. Because public defenders are doing it all, I think most lawyers just say; well, the public defender does that why do we have to do it? I think we've lost a lot in not having more volunteer work by attorneys.

Resolving the workload of public defenders might seem complicated; like finding more funding for public defenders or more pro bono work. Bob Dillinger, the elected Public Defender for Pinellas and Pasco Counties, said the solution is straightforward.

“Well, I think if we got rid of some of these minimum mandatories it would help us significantly in terms of where we have to put our resources. You know, while case loads have actually gone down a little bit, the penalties have gone very much higher. So we have to spend more time on cases that really aren't deserving of those types of sentences. But, since it's a possibility that the client can get it we have to work on it and spend more and more time. If we didn't have to that we could increase our services.”

Defending Gideon documentary

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Like·Comment·Share·Get Notifications Tim Adams Friends: Know your Rights: STATEMENT OF CLIENT'S RIGHTS Before you, the prospective client, arrange a contingency fee agreement with a lawyer, you should understand this statement of your rights as a client. This statement is not a part of the actual contract between you and your lawyer, but, as a prospective client, you should be aware of these rights. 1.There is no legal requirement that a lawyer charge a client a set fee or a percentage of money recovered in a case. You, the client, have the right to talk with your lawyer about the proposed fee and to bargain about the rate or percentage as in any other contract. If you do not reach an agreement with one lawyer you may talk with other lawyers. 2.Any contingency fee contract must be in writing and you have three (3) business days to reconsider the contract. You may cancel the contract without any reason if you notify your lawyer in writing within three (3) business days of signing the contract. If you withdraw from the contract within the first three (3) days, you do not owe the lawyer a fee although you may be responsible for the lawyer's actual costs during that time. But if your lawyer begins to represent you, your lawyer may not withdraw from the case without giving you notice, delivering the necessary papers to you, and allowing you time to employ another lawyer. Often, your lawyer must obtain court approval before withdrawing from a case. If you discharge your lawyer without good cause after the 3-day period, you may have to pay a fee for the work the lawyer has done. 3.Before hiring a lawyer, you, the client, have the right to know about the lawyer's education, training and experience. If you ask, the lawyer should tell you specifically about the lawyer’s actual experience dealing with cases similar to yours. If you ask, the lawyer should provide information about specific training or knowledge and give you this information in writing if you request it. 4.Before signing a contingent fee contract with you, a lawyer must advise you whether the lawyer intends to handle your case alone or whether other lawyers will be helping with the case. If your lawyer intends to refer the case to other lawyers, the lawyer should tell you what kind of fee sharing arrangement will be made with the other lawyers. If lawyers from different law firms will represent you, at least one lawyer from each law firm must sign the contingent fee contract. 5.If your lawyer intends to refer your case to another lawyer or counsel with other lawyers, your lawyer should tell you about that at the beginning. If your lawyer takes the case and later decides to refer it to another lawyer or to associate with other lawyers, you should sign a new contract that includes the new lawyers. You, the client, also have the right to consult with each lawyer working on your case and each lawyer is legally responsible to represent your interest and is legally responsible for the acts of other lawyers involved in the case. 6.You, the client, have the right to know in advance how you will need to pay the expenses and the legal fees at the end of the case. If you pay a deposit in advance for costs, you may ask reasonable questions about how the money will be or has been spent and how much of it remains unspent. Your lawyer should give a reasonable estimate about future necessary costs. If your lawyer agrees to lend or advance you money to prepare or research the case, you have the right to know periodically how much money your lawyer has spent on your behalf. You also have the right to decide, after consulting with your lawyer, how much money is to be spent to prepare a case. If you pay the expenses, you have the right to decide how much to spend. Your lawyer should also inform you whether the fee will be based on the gross amount recovered or the amount recovered minus the costs. 7.You, the client, have the right to be told by your lawyer about possible adverse consequences if you lose the case. Those adverse consequences might include money which you might have to pay to your lawyer for costs and the liability you might have for attorney's fees to the other side. 8.You, the client, have the right to receive and approve a closing statement at the end of the case before you pay any money. The statement must list all of the financial details of the entire case, including the amount recovered, all expenses, and a precise statement of your lawyer's fee. Until you approve the closing statement, you need not pay any money to anyone, including your lawyer. You also have the right to have every lawyer or law firm working on your case sign this closing statement. 9.You, the client, have the right to ask your lawyer at reasonable intervals how the case is progressing and to have these questions answered to the best of your lawyer's ability. 10.You, the client, have the right to make the final decision regarding settlement of a case. Your lawyer must notify you of all offers of settlement before and after the trial. Offers during the trial must be immediately communicated and you should consult with your lawyer regarding whether to accept a settlement. However, you must make the final decision to accept or reject a settlement. 11.If at any time, you, the client, believe that your lawyer has charged an excessive or illegal fee, you have the right to report the matter to The Florida Bar, the agency that oversees the practice and behavior of all lawyers in Florida. For information on how to reach The Florida Bar, call (800) 342-8060, or contact the local bar association. Any disagreement between you and your lawyer about a fee can be taken to court and you may wish to hire another lawyer to help you resolve this disagreement. Usually fee disputes must be handled in a separate lawsuit, unless your fee contract provides for arbitration. You can request, but may not require, that a provision for arbitration (under Chapter 682, Florida Statutes, or under the fee arbitration rule of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar) be included in your fee contract. DATED this at ______ this ____________ day of ____________________________ _________________________________ ________________________________ CLIENT SIGNATUREATTORNEY SIGNATURE Unlike · 1 · More · Just now



Like·Comment·Share·Get Notifications Tim Adams Friends: Know your Rights: STATEMENT OF CLIENT'S RIGHTS Before you, the prospective client, arrange a contingency fee agreement with a lawyer, you should understand this statement of your rights as a client. This statement is not a part of the actual contract between you and your lawyer, but, as a prospective client, you should be aware of these rights. 1.There is no legal requirement that a lawyer charge a client a set fee or a percentage of money recovered in a case. You, the client, have the right to talk with your lawyer about the proposed fee and to bargain about the rate or percentage as in any other contract. If you do not reach an agreement with one lawyer you may talk with other lawyers. 2.Any contingency fee contract must be in writing and you have three (3) business days to reconsider the contract. You may cancel the contract without any reason if you notify your lawyer in writing within three (3) business days of signing the contract. If you withdraw from the contract within the first three (3) days, you do not owe the lawyer a fee although you may be responsible for the lawyer's actual costs during that time. But if your lawyer begins to represent you, your lawyer may not withdraw from the case without giving you notice, delivering the necessary papers to you, and allowing you time to employ another lawyer. Often, your lawyer must obtain court approval before withdrawing from a case. If you discharge your lawyer without good cause after the 3-day period, you may have to pay a fee for the work the lawyer has done. 3.Before hiring a lawyer, you, the client, have the right to know about the lawyer's education, training and experience. If you ask, the lawyer should tell you specifically about the lawyer’s actual experience dealing with cases similar to yours. If you ask, the lawyer should provide information about specific training or knowledge and give you this information in writing if you request it. 4.Before signing a contingent fee contract with you, a lawyer must advise you whether the lawyer intends to handle your case alone or whether other lawyers will be helping with the case. If your lawyer intends to refer the case to other lawyers, the lawyer should tell you what kind of fee sharing arrangement will be made with the other lawyers. If lawyers from different law firms will represent you, at least one lawyer from each law firm must sign the contingent fee contract. 5.If your lawyer intends to refer your case to another lawyer or counsel with other lawyers, your lawyer should tell you about that at the beginning. If your lawyer takes the case and later decides to refer it to another lawyer or to associate with other lawyers, you should sign a new contract that includes the new lawyers. You, the client, also have the right to consult with each lawyer working on your case and each lawyer is legally responsible to represent your interest and is legally responsible for the acts of other lawyers involved in the case. 6.You, the client, have the right to know in advance how you will need to pay the expenses and the legal fees at the end of the case. If you pay a deposit in advance for costs, you may ask reasonable questions about how the money will be or has been spent and how much of it remains unspent. Your lawyer should give a reasonable estimate about future necessary costs. If your lawyer agrees to lend or advance you money to prepare or research the case, you have the right to know periodically how much money your lawyer has spent on your behalf. You also have the right to decide, after consulting with your lawyer, how much money is to be spent to prepare a case. If you pay the expenses, you have the right to decide how much to spend. Your lawyer should also inform you whether the fee will be based on the gross amount recovered or the amount recovered minus the costs. 7.You, the client, have the right to be told by your lawyer about possible adverse consequences if you lose the case. Those adverse consequences might include money which you might have to pay to your lawyer for costs and the liability you might have for attorney's fees to the other side. 8.You, the client, have the right to receive and approve a closing statement at the end of the case before you pay any money. The statement must list all of the financial details of the entire case, including the amount recovered, all expenses, and a precise statement of your lawyer's fee. Until you approve the closing statement, you need not pay any money to anyone, including your lawyer. You also have the right to have every lawyer or law firm working on your case sign this closing statement. 9.You, the client, have the right to ask your lawyer at reasonable intervals how the case is progressing and to have these questions answered to the best of your lawyer's ability. 10.You, the client, have the right to make the final decision regarding settlement of a case. Your lawyer must notify you of all offers of settlement before and after the trial. Offers during the trial must be immediately communicated and you should consult with your lawyer regarding whether to accept a settlement. However, you must make the final decision to accept or reject a settlement. 11.If at any time, you, the client, believe that your lawyer has charged an excessive or illegal fee, you have the right to report the matter to The Florida Bar, the agency that oversees the practice and behavior of all lawyers in Florida. For information on how to reach The Florida Bar, call (800) 342-8060, or contact the local bar association. Any disagreement between you and your lawyer about a fee can be taken to court and you may wish to hire another lawyer to help you resolve this disagreement. Usually fee disputes must be handled in a separate lawsuit, unless your fee contract provides for arbitration. You can request, but may not require, that a provision for arbitration (under Chapter 682, Florida Statutes, or under the fee arbitration rule of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar) be included in your fee contract. DATED this at ______ this ____________ day of ____________________________ _________________________________ ________________________________ CLIENT SIGNATUREATTORNEY SIGNATURE Unlike · 1 · More · Just now