Public Defender

I know Lat usually does the Lawyerly Lairs. Lat likes to see how fabulous people live. I’m less interested in that. My thing is more about mocking those less fortunate than me.

When the tip came in — “please help this poor public defender unload this real estate” — you can guess which one of us was more interested. PD real estate? Is it a Lincoln Continental? Is it a houseboat floating just off of Riker’s?

Sadly, for comedic purposes, the tipster has a legitimate house. Plumbing and doors and furniture that isn’t made of cardboard. Turns out the tipster is a federal public defender instead of a local, cannon-fodder PD. But, if you look really closely, you can see the signs of a person who works for clients who can’t afford anybody else…

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Even if what Stanley D. Rauls says to a potential witness is technically correct, somehow, the defense submits, as a result of the communication, the witness or their agent comes away unreasonably afraid. That’s the “poopyhead” part defense counsel really can’t countenance.

– Sharon Kiel, a former deputy public defender in Arkansas who showed a little personality in chastising a lawyer that she felt was intimidating a witness. She even worked emoji into her filing. Hawg Law Blawg, which recently brought us the dog-piss RFAs, uncovered this gem of yesteryear. It’s a tad unorthodox, but if you’ve got a friendly judge, why not break up the tedium of their day by giving them something fun to read?

I’m writing today’s column from New York City, where I’m covering Thomson Reuters Vantage 2014, a great conference focused on mid-sized and large law firms’ use of technology. There have been fascinating discussions about how larger law firms are adapting to change and are incorporating some of the latest technologies into their IT infrastructure. Not surprisingly, however, it turns out that like solo and small-firm attorneys, large and mid-sized law firms are often just as reluctant to adopt new technologies and processes despite overwhelming evidence that doing so is the best way to stay competitive.

But the good news gleaned from this conference is that some larger firms are adapting, just as many solo and small firms are. And that’s my goal with this column: to showcase how individual solo and small-firm lawyers are using new technologies in their day-to-day practices. In the process, my columns will hopefully encourage and help other lawyers to do the same.

In today’s column I’ll be featuring Jill Paperno. Jill is a long-time assistant public defender, having worked at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office in Rochester, New York for over 27 years. She’s currently the Second Assistant Public Defender and is the author of Representing the Accused: A Practical Guide to Criminal Defense (affiliate link). In other words, Jill is a diehard criminal defense attorney and has dedicated her life to defending our constitutional rights.

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At the beginning of Superman — the real Superman, not the nonsensical slugfest from last year — General Zod and his accomplices are sentenced to the Phantom Zone for plotting a coup against Krypton’s rulers. Krypton as a whole seemed like a pretty forward-thinking place. You could tell because people wore glowing robes and robes are the universal sign of “fictional people with their collective sh*t together.” See, e.g., the Jedi, the 2688 world based on the music of Wyld Stallyns, Jesus.

Anyway, given the advanced society involved, the trial of Zod seemed a bit too Guantanamo. Zod didn’t get to mount any sort of defense and was pronounced guilty within seconds of showing up to court.

Apparently, comedian Patton Oswalt felt the same confusion and decided to provide us a glimpse into General Zod’s pre-trial prep with his public defender, “Leg-El”….

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My weekend was ruined because I was worried about being arrested.

Michael Courtney, chief public defender in Danbury, Connecticut, having second thoughts about contacting someone in witness protection to be a witness for his client, convicted triple murderer Richard Roszkowski. Courtney requested that he be excused from representing Roszkowski, but a judge denied his pleas.

Lawyers may not lead the most luxurious of lifestyles, but if you’re single and looking, it’s still a profession that will make prospective dates ooh and aah. Most people in the average dating pool think being a lawyer is a road to riches, thus making these eligible bachelors even more appealing.

One non-profit organization decided to take advantage of this allure, and is holding a man auction the week before Valentine’s Day. The event will feature about 50 professional men, and 10 of them are lawyers — very handsome lawyers. The bidding opens at $75, and we bet that some of these lucky gents will be sold for well beyond their hourly billing fees.

So who is the most prestigious piece of lawyerly man meat?

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Ed. note: Matt Kaiser founded The Kaiser Law Firm PLLC, a white-collar boutique in Washington, D.C., and will now be writing a weekly column for us about white-collar practice and his adventures in building a law firm. Matt previously covered the Supreme Court for us. This is the second installment of his new column.

Suppose you’re a fourth-year associate in a litigation department in a large firm on one of the coasts. You’ve worked on a lot of different matters — you’ve done document review for commercial litigation. You put together a privilege log for some patent litigation (who says patent litigation is specialized?). You waded through documents in an FCPA case. You even got to do some deposition digesting for a reinsurance lawsuit!

You really liked your work on the FCPA document review. You noticed that the documents related to a foreign country, which sounded exotic. You could sit in your office, staring at the brick wall on the other side of the alley, and imagine that you were an extra in Casablanca, with a view toward how the world really works overseas.

Perhaps most importantly, you loved how your friends from law school reacted when you told them you were working on an FCPA matter. Cocktail parties became more interesting when people thought of you as a white-collar criminal defense lawyer, rather than the reinsurance guy. You resolved that you’d do more white-collar work and perhaps make this noble practice area the focus of your career.

But how?

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Midwesterners may represent the most wholesome portion of our population, but their lawyerly brethren have allowed their libidos to get the better of them.

Take Kenneth Kratz, the sexting district attorney from Wisconsin who once notably told one of his victims, “You may be the tall, young, hot nymph, but I am the prize!” Another fine example is Reema Bajaj, a young solo practitioner in Illinois who pleaded guilty to engaging in prostitution (and was also accused of trading sex for office supplies).

Now we’re hearing about a public defender who was allegedly unable to keep it in his pants. Coles County Public Defender Lonnie Lutz held his position for 33 years before retiring in June. In the final years of his service as PD, he allegedly took advantage of the attorney-client relationship by repeatedly sexually harassing and fondling his female clients, but not all of them — “only the special ones.” The sweet nothings Lutz allegedly whispered to his “special” clients are quite… graphic in nature.

Is Lonnie Lutz just a horny old man? Let’s find out…

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Our latest career alternative for attorneys is probably one that makes most people wish they had not only the funds, but also the creativity to be able to tackle. We’ve covered television screenwriters and novelists in the past, but creating a script for a visual masterpiece on the silver screen is another thing entirely.

It takes time, talent, and most perhaps importantly of all, money. The stealth lawyer profiled in today’s video had all three, and she used them to create a film that touches on social issues that public defenders face each day of their lives. Let’s find out who she is, and what she did prior to becoming a filmmaker….

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Another (dis)satisfied customer.

* Do we really need another “50 Best Law Schools” ranking list? Debatable. But we know you want to find out if your school made the cut. [Business Insider]

* What’s the hardest part of being a public defender? Is it (a) the low pay, (b) the long hours, or (c) getting punched in the face by an unhappy client? [Huffington Post]

* This lawyer is involved in a mess of defamation accusations because he made the mistake of paying attention to anonymous comments. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* Only amateur fibbers simply pretend they have cancer. If you want to be the real deal, you gotta tell all your friends you also don’t have health insurance and get them to raise three grand to pay for your imaginary chemo. [Legal Juice]

* So, I would never fake an injury to get to use a wheelchair, because of the serious karma issues it would probably create in my life (e.g., above blurb). But I will say I went to Disneyland once with a physically disabled friend, and it was freaking amazing. I’ve never waited in so few lines in my life. [Consumerist]

* I think the lesson here is that it’s generally poor parenting to name your child after the sound a bomb makes. [CBS Cleveland via Legal Blog Watch]

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