17 June 2005

"Paid Attorney" = "Good Attorney"?

In a comment to the post below about real / paid attorneys:
I will note that I know of at least one bad PD. He is the father of a very close friend. Since he is still practicing, I'll only note that this is in PA.

He regularly pleas people out because it is easy, and laughs about it at the dinner table. He's talked about a nod-and-wink agreement with the DA, and mentioned how that makes everything easier.

I think he's a bad actor; not indicative of PDs, at all. But I feel it must be said that they're out there.
Of course they are. I've seen a few myself. There is a percentage of bad actors in every single job or profession in the criminal justice system. However, to be fair, paid lawyers can be just as bad. Just because someone goes out and hires a "paid" lawyer doesn't mean he's getting a better lawyer; it just means he's getting a lawyer for whom he paid more money. Sadly, there is no way for a defendant to know if he's hiring the best attorney in town or the best advertised attorney. I've seen a number of people trade down when they hired a private lawyer over their court appointed / PD; I've also seen trades up. But what can you do? You cannot walk up to someone, box his ears and say, "You idjut, you just paid a firm $5k and they sent a kid who passed the bar two months ago to represent you in an attempted murder case. The PD you fired has been doing this for twenty years and won his last 6 juries." Likewise, you cannot walk up and say, "IMO, the attorney the judge just appointed to you sucks. You need to go hire someone."


markm said...

You are probably right, in general. However, if I was accused of a crime and wanted it defended at trial (and up to the Supreme Court if necessary), there is one law firm around here that I know would do the job well. They don't work for free, but I do know of times they've worked for just the expenses. The PD or anyone else I never heard of would be a crap shoot.

Tom McKenna said...

It's an interesting situation. I can say that I have seen cases where the defendant (actually his parents usually) go out and hire the "best" lawyer in town... he promptly comes in and declares total war. Result: instead of a negotiated plea for a reasonably short sentence consistent with the facts and roughly approximating justice, we end up in a jury trial with the jury slamming the guy. Even when the judge shaves some of the sentence off, defendant still ends up worse off than he would have with a "run of the mill" attorney. Sure, once in a while the big shot will hit the home run, but I'm locking and loading when I see his name on my files. Too bad the client pays the price in the end.

Anonymous said...

Just finished an appeal for a client who fired his PD on the eve of trial, hired some local hack who obviously had no criminal experience. He let in a confession to an unrelated crime, elicited on cross-examination that my client had been involved in series of pattern robberies, blew his alibi defense, late to court every day (even during deliberations), told the jury my client's alleged accomplices had fingered him...on and on it went.