I went to a concert last week with a friend from law school. We hadn't seen each other in a couple of years. She asked about my practice. I told her I handle street crimes. She responded "so, drugs and guns?"
Yep, drugs and guns. I quickly explained that over half the weekly Chicago felony arrests are for drugs and there's guns everywhere. Adding in some robberies of various types, random burglaries, stray shootings, and an occasional murder will represent my entire practice.
We talked about the local police department. I told her about how in certain situations they like to take shortcuts on the street. Then I told her what she probably already knew: the overwhelming majority of accused felons in the city of Chicago are represented by the Office of the Public Defender. So most of them get a free defense.
The next morning a Twitter acquaintance from Florida, who is a public defender, mentioned a standing ovation rendered to PD's at a criminal law conference/seminar in Florida.I think this is great. We need the PD's. In fact, we need more of them but there's no money here for more. I don't see this changing anytime soon.
Our PD's (and I am sure most) have a thankless job. They are criticized and doubted by their own clients. The families yell at them. Judges push some of them around. And there are a couple of horrible rumors floating around here that couldn't be more incorrect. The first one is that PD's are not real lawyers. And secondly, they just work with the government to get everyone to plead guilty.
Rubbish on both accounts.
The city of Chicago PD's in felony trial courtrooms have more criminal experience than myself and I have told endless callers this. I have done everything I can do to dispel the above mentioned myths.
The PD's get the crap cases. It's a fact. Anyone with a decent case whose family can put two nickels together is going to hire a private attorney, like myself. Am I better in court than a PD? Some, yes. Some, no. We in the defense bar, PD or private, win some and lose some.
Here in Chicago, flashy lawyering won't win cases in criminal court. We are only as good as the facts of our case. It's really that simple. And I like it this way. This way I know going in how good of a shot I have.
Last week the most seasoned private homicide trial lawyer in the city lost a murder case. But yesterday, a PD got a not guilty on a murder case from a jury. It's case specific. Win some, lose some.
Our local PD's are in a union. They have good benefits. Some of them appear to love their job and others, not so much.
I, too, have my days when it must appear I love being in court. And I am sure on other days I can look a bit distracted. But to do what PD's do, day in and day out, and tolerate all the crap thrown at them, they must love the work.
They all deserve some respect. And a thank you.