Thursday, April 21, 2011

Let's make a deal

I ran across this tasty morsel on a listserv to which I subscribe...
A fellow lawyer advised me today a district attorney offered to dismiss his client's case if the lawyer would waive his court appointed attorney fees. Lawyer has put in a lot of time and energy on the case. Lawyer feels like he has been put in a bad spot by the district attorney and doesn't know what to handle this. 
Any suggestions?
Here's a suggestion. File an ethics complaint against both the prosecutor who made the "offer" and the district attorney. By making such an "offer," the prosecutor is violating his ethical duty to see that justice is done. If the case deserves to be dismissed, the case should be dismissed. End of story.

Would this prosecutor have made the same "offer" to the attorney if it were a retained case? If, as I suppose, the answer would be no, then you have an argument that the prosecutor and, by extension, the district attorney are violating the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment as the indigent client is being discriminated against because of his economic status.

Such actions also violate a persons's 5th and 6th Amendment right to counsel. By placing such an "offer" on the table, the prosecutor is creating a disincentive for attorneys to accept appointed cases in that county. If the competent and experienced attorneys refuse to accept court appointments, the right to counsel becomes a hollow promise.

Maybe the district attorney should take a closer look at the cases the office chooses to prosecute. Maybe the weak cases need to be cast aside. Trying to balance the county's budget on the backs of indigent defendants is just plain wrong.

Keeping the prosecutor who made the offer on the county payroll is just as wrong. Hell, allowing him to continue practicing law is wrong.

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