DMN has an article about the new public defender office in Kaufman County, where I practice. Texas has very few public defender offices. Most indigent defense is handled by court appointed private attorneys.
Kaufman County started a public defender office last fall. The goal was to save money on attorney fees. I remember hearing rumors that some defense attorney’s were making 6 figure salaries on appointmented cases.
The new PD, Andrew Jordan, is doing a great job. Defendants are moving out of the jail quicker and the criminal dockets seem to be moving much faster. It seems that even though the PD office is working well the county is not seeing the savings they wanted.
This is not Andrew Jordan’s fault. Kaufman county had systemic criminal justice problems that the PD office inherited. It seems that local law enforcement actually withheld cases until the new DA arrived on January 1.
Here is a great quote from the Kaufman Sheriff – “What we’re saving is we no longer have people who have misdemeanors spending 45 or 60 days awaiting court on a DUI or something,” he said. “We’re getting a much higher level of criminal justice and due process to these people in a timely manner. It allows them to get out and be productive citizens, so they can pay [in fines and fees] for this criminal justice system.”
That says a lot. The Sheriff seems to acknowledge that our tough laws are not keeping the citizenry safer. He advocates letting these “productive citizens” out to work. If these defendants are not a threat and should be working why are we jailing them? Why not change the laws that require the incarceration of productive citizens?
I wonder if MADD is unhappy that DWI defendants are getting out faster?
The truth about the drug war and other tough on crime measures is clear at the county level. You can see how such policies are a never ending drain on county resources.
Most indigent defendants just want to end their case, get out of jail, and move on with their lives. The system is not reforming indigent defendants. It is warehousing, feeding, clothing, and paying for their medical care. Taxpayers should realize that most of the tough laws they support are keeping their property taxes high, but not keeping them safer.
I have personal experience as a public defender. My first job out of law school was as an assistant PD. The toughest part of being a PD for me was the complete lack of hygiene among many indigent defendants. Really bad breath was common. The other tough part was that a lot of misdemeanor defendants knew as much or more about criminal procedure than me. I learned a lot as a PD but private practice is for me.
For insight into PD life check out these links to PD blogs.
Labels: Kaufman County