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These Lawyers: Why I Like Public Defenders, Why I Don't

Public Defenders, often called PDs, are some of the hardest working lawyers you'll ever encounter. They tirelessly work themselves to exhaustion without a great deal of money in return. They sacrifice personal time to help those who can't afford a private lawyer. You have to admire them in Denver, Jefferson and Adams County Courts.

Several times, I have asked PDs for help understanding the culture of a courtroom, its staff and the DAs who are assigned to their division. Most every time they have been super helpful and genuinely nice people. I appreciate their willingness to support private defense attorneys when asked.  Read an earlier blog on whether Public Defenders are Great Lawyers.

Are Public Defenders Smart?

The short answer is "yes". Since they see so much courtroom action, over and over again, they run into scenarios each week which I might not see more than once every six months. The result is that they memorize evidence rules and creative ways to handle cases like Theft, DUI and Internet Luring. They also have a great system of continuing legal education from the Public Defender system, where they get on-going training. Their experience as criminal defense attorneys is a real asset to the accused in Arapahoe and Douglas County.

The Caseload Problem

A Public Defender's caseload is not fair to them. They handle far more cases than a comparable DA might, for less money. They will handle at least four times the number of cases I will have going as a private attorney at any one time. You've got to admire them. They keep on fighting day in and day out, often on thankless tasks where they don't have much of a chance of winning. This huge caseload prevents them from putting in the kind of time a private attorney can on a particular case. In the end, they must triage their cases, much like an ER doctor. Not every case can go to trial and not every case can be fully investigated. There simply is not enough time.

The Over Commitment Problem

PDs are committed to the cause too. While this is usually good, at times their commitment can become cult-like. Not like a bad cult which messes with your mind, but a commitment which seems to exceed good judgment and reason. I have seen PDs in Golden, Englewood and Centennial courts unwilling to yield on a point to the court or DA, even though the law and evidence are against them. They do this because they are used to continuous fights with the DAs and judges. They feel like giving in or admitting a point signals weakness or defeat. To me, this can be counterproductive. A lawyer should choose their battles wisely and not battle unnecessarily - it is too exhausting.

Many of these hard working attorneys' cases involve defendants (clients) who are repeat offenders. Some people just don't learn from their mistakes and repeat crimes again and again. Families give up on them and refuse to hire any more private attorneys. Who is there for them? Public Defenders are there to care for them. They look out for the most messy of defendants and do it with passion. I admire that. The bottom line is that Public Defenders are smart, hardworking lawyers with too many cases.

Call our private defense attorneys 24/7 at 303-731-0719, if you feel like your public defender doesn't have the time to devote to your case. Together, we can protect your future.

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