Monday, January 15, 2007

Shortage of public defenders? Lock 'em up

I am sure there has already been a lot of discussion about what is going on as New Orleans rebuilds its public defense system. A juvenile court judge locked up a chief defender for a few hours because there was not enough staff to handle the calendars.

The chief defender did a good job of being diplomatic after his release.

From the article: "Steve Singer was released Tuesday when the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal stayed the contempt order issued by Chief Juvenile Court Judge David Bell.He said he went straight to Bell's court to tell him that the office will soon get state money to increase the number of lawyers who will represent young criminal defendants.

‘‘I think (Bell) is frustrated for the right reasons,'' Singer said. ‘‘I think, like a lot of us, for him the pace of recovery is not fast enough. I agree with him.'' "

Interestingly, the judges are apparently staffed and so are the prosecutors. Why not lay off a few judges and prosecutors until the public defender's office can hire qualified staff to do the work?

Tough Job

This job is hard. It's draining. The worst feeling I have in this job is the times - usually short so far - when I lose the capacity to care.

I go through stages where it's hard to listen to another sad story.

There are times recently when good things happen. A case gets dismissed. A colleague wins a trial. Those are supposed to be times to celebrate because sometimes they are few and far between.

But sometimes all I can think about are the twenty phone calls to return - all "emergencies."

I think I need to press a reset button to begin again. It helps to think about one case at a time or one day at a time, but that's rarely what we are able to do. Too many cases, too little time. Too much to think about.

Time to go read a book about zen.