How do horrible people get lawyers?

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Something I've always wondered, so I'm calling all law-smart people here. In cases such as James Holmes (Colorado theater shooting) and Jared Loughner (Tucson shooting) where the acts committed are so atrocious, how in the world can they find someone willing to represent them? And how can they be sure this lawyer is actually trying to defend them as they should?
Originally Posted by SaraNoH
To further answer the questions, they HAVE to have someone represent them unless they choose to represent themself and are competent to do so. If no one steps up, a judge has to appoint a lawyer who has no choice to represent someone, in some cases.

How can you be sure a lawyer is actually trying to defend you? A lawyer is ethically obligated to do that and if they can't, they must withdraw, and if the judge doesn't let them withdraw, then they are ethically obligated to represent you properly.
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali











the reason i had so much trouble with it is because this woman had young children and also because it turned out that the man she was defending was a serial womanizer who sought out single mothers with young daughters.

disclosure indicates that she knew this - and still joined the defence team; something i couldn't have done.

i was even more shocked by the jurors who were parents of small children who said that they would be able to be impartial at trial. a LOT of the jury pool was excused when they admitted they couldn't handle it.

i guess i'm not that strong...
Originally Posted by rouquinne
I am a woman and I have small children and I admit it would be difficult and there would be emotional moments and moments of doubt, but yes, I absolutely think that ultimately, I could be impartial about an issue like this and focus on the evidence.

I would think that the opportunity to junior on a big murder trial would be a really good opportunity to learn and test your ability to be able to be impartial in such a situation without being the person in the hot seat. I would certainly jump at such a chance, and it doesn't make me heartless or insensitive or mean I do not love and value my kids above all (not saying you said that, rou, but there are people who seem to think that.)
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali











When I was a court stenographer it was very hard to sit in the courtroom with some of these defendants. I could not defend them if I were a lawyer, but I do support their right to a vigorous defense... especially so that when/if they are convicted they will not have a leg to stand on on appeal.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
Having a valid appeal usually has more to do with whether the judge or jury properly applied the law, though. A good lawyer will comb through everything after to see if they made mistakes. A bad one might miss it and run out of the time frame for an appeal, so a bad lawyer would actually be better if you don't want someone to be able to appeal.
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali











Sadly, I have a theory about the percentage of humanity left in most lawyers after they finish law school: about 30 per cent.
Originally Posted by claudine19
Don't forget that there are lawyers and there are those who are litigators. Granted, some of the litigators I have known have really been smarmy. But there are also housing lawyers, lawyers who work on human rights cases, lawyers clerk for supreme court justices, etc. I've known some really great lawyers who do nothing but work for family court.
rouquinne, curlyarca and Amneris like this.


Obamacare is not a blueprint for socialism. You're thinking of the New Testament. ~~ John Fugelsang



When I was a court stenographer it was very hard to sit in the courtroom with some of these defendants. I could not defend them if I were a lawyer, but I do support their right to a vigorous defense... especially so that when/if they are convicted they will not have a leg to stand on on appeal.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
Having a valid appeal usually has more to do with whether the judge or jury properly applied the law, though. A good lawyer will comb through everything after to see if they made mistakes. A bad one might miss it and run out of the time frame for an appeal, so a bad lawyer would actually be better if you don't want someone to be able to appeal.
Originally Posted by Amneris
For some reason I did a ton of BOB (Board of Bar) cases one year, all related to how bad they sucked as lawyers. I got a ton of transcript requests from new lawyers because they were appealing convictions. but you're definitely right that it's more than just that.


Obamacare is not a blueprint for socialism. You're thinking of the New Testament. ~~ John Fugelsang



When I was a court stenographer it was very hard to sit in the courtroom with some of these defendants. I could not defend them if I were a lawyer, but I do support their right to a vigorous defense... especially so that when/if they are convicted they will not have a leg to stand on on appeal.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
Having a valid appeal usually has more to do with whether the judge or jury properly applied the law, though. A good lawyer will comb through everything after to see if they made mistakes. A bad one might miss it and run out of the time frame for an appeal, so a bad lawyer would actually be better if you don't want someone to be able to appeal.
Originally Posted by Amneris
For some reason I did a ton of BOB (Board of Bar) cases one year, all related to how bad they sucked as lawyers. I got a ton of transcript requests from new lawyers because they were appealing convictions. but you're definitely right that it's more than just that.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
What is Board of Bar? Is that the body that does professional discipline? Because, at least here, if your lawyer sucked, then you file a disciplinary complaint. You can't appeal on that basis alone - you could have fired them during the trial if they were sucking that badly.

eta: A vigorous defence can shut off the likelihood of an appeal too because if all the issues are canvassed thoroughly and properly, and argued well, there's nothing left to bring up unless the judge goes off the deep end.
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali












Last edited by Amneris; 07-23-2012 at 10:52 PM.
Sadly, I have a theory about the percentage of humanity left in most lawyers after they finish law school: about 30 per cent.
Originally Posted by claudine19
Don't forget that there are lawyers and there are those who are litigators. Granted, some of the litigators I have known have really been smarmy. But there are also housing lawyers, lawyers who work on human rights cases, lawyers clerk for supreme court justices, etc. I've known some really great lawyers who do nothing but work for family court.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
Absolutely - and those who do poverty/street law, or work for NGOs and charities, or give up lucrative offers to help others, or open their own shops and work their tails off, or don't even practice law but do some other kind of advocacy, or mediation, or policy work, or teach law, or do solely legal aid work, or do a ton of pro bono work, or lobby for legal reform, or draft and translate legislation, or work for unions, and so on.

I think some of the comments are based on big, wealthy, private law firms, which certainly don't represent all lawyers.
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali












Having a valid appeal usually has more to do with whether the judge or jury properly applied the law, though. A good lawyer will comb through everything after to see if they made mistakes. A bad one might miss it and run out of the time frame for an appeal, so a bad lawyer would actually be better if you don't want someone to be able to appeal.
Originally Posted by Amneris
For some reason I did a ton of BOB (Board of Bar) cases one year, all related to how bad they sucked as lawyers. I got a ton of transcript requests from new lawyers because they were appealing convictions. but you're definitely right that it's more than just that.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
What is Board of Bar? Is that the body that does professional discipline? Because, at least here, if your lawyer sucked, then you file a disciplinary complaint. You can't appeal on that basis alone - you could have fired them during the trial if they were sucking that badly.

eta: A vigorous defence can shut off the likelihood of an appeal too because if all the issues are canvassed thoroughly and properly, and argued well, there's nothing left to bring up unless the judge goes off the deep end.
Originally Posted by Amneris
Board of Bar Overseers are the ones who can disbar a lawyer for misconduct or other things. I did a summer's worth of those hearings. The appeals were a separate issue. I can't remember the particulars of many but the one that does stick out in my mind was a lawyer so bad she simply didn't defend. Called no witnesses, cross-examined no witnesses, etc.

I suppose the appeal could have also been because the judge didn't Intervene in any way. It's been more than 18 years so it's hard to recall.


Obamacare is not a blueprint for socialism. You're thinking of the New Testament. ~~ John Fugelsang




For some reason I did a ton of BOB (Board of Bar) cases one year, all related to how bad they sucked as lawyers. I got a ton of transcript requests from new lawyers because they were appealing convictions. but you're definitely right that it's more than just that.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
What is Board of Bar? Is that the body that does professional discipline? Because, at least here, if your lawyer sucked, then you file a disciplinary complaint. You can't appeal on that basis alone - you could have fired them during the trial if they were sucking that badly.

eta: A vigorous defence can shut off the likelihood of an appeal too because if all the issues are canvassed thoroughly and properly, and argued well, there's nothing left to bring up unless the judge goes off the deep end.
Originally Posted by Amneris
Board of Bar Overseers are the ones who can disbar a lawyer for misconduct or other things. I did a summer's worth of those hearings. The appeals were a separate issue. I can't remember the particulars of many but the one that does stick out in my mind was a lawyer so bad she simply didn't defend. Called no witnesses, cross-examined no witnesses, etc.

I suppose the appeal could have also been because the judge didn't Intervene in any way. It's been more than 18 years so it's hard to recall.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
Hmmmm, if the person effectively had no defense (and I'm struggling to imagine how that would happen - so when the state closed its case, she just stood up and said "the defense rests?") then I would think the ground for appeal is that they did not receive their right to a defense and yeah, if the judge went ahead and said "Fine then, I'm convicting" that would be an error of law justifying an appeal. I can't imagine how that would have looked though!
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali












Last edited by Amneris; 07-23-2012 at 11:11 PM.
Sadly, I have a theory about the percentage of humanity left in most lawyers after they finish law school: about 30 per cent.
Originally Posted by claudine19
Don't forget that there are lawyers and there are those who are litigators. Granted, some of the litigators I have known have really been smarmy. But there are also housing lawyers, lawyers who work on human rights cases, lawyers clerk for supreme court justices, etc. I've known some really great lawyers who do nothing but work for family court.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
Absolutely - and those who do poverty/street law, or work for NGOs and charities, or give up lucrative offers to help others, or open their own shops and work their tails off, or don't even practice law but do some other kind of advocacy, or mediation, or policy work, or teach law, or do solely legal aid work, or do a ton of pro bono work, or lobby for legal reform, or draft and translate legislation, or work for unions, and so on.

I think some of the comments are based on big, wealthy, private law firms, which certainly don't represent all lawyers.
Originally Posted by Amneris
Agreed. I've known lawyers who've never made more than $30,000 a year working for Massachusetts legal aid.
Amneris likes this.


Obamacare is not a blueprint for socialism. You're thinking of the New Testament. ~~ John Fugelsang



Amneris (hey girl! Hope all is well!),

I know that attys don't really get into innocence or guilt with their clients, but in your experience is there even a conversation about getting AODA treatment for a substance abusing client or getting a young person involved in a mentoring program (I'm not talking about court or trying to get a lighter sentence)? What types of convo, if any, is had between an atty and a client in terms of the client not finding himself/herself in the same predicament?
3c/4a
I had a sociology professor who was a lawyer and used to work as a public defender. A student once asked her if she's ever defended someone she knew was guilty. Her response: "I don't know, I've never asked. It's not my job to prove innocence, it's my job to show that the prosecution didn't prove guilt."

It took me aback, but after thinking about it I really liked that response. I don't care how heinous a person is, I don't want them convicted unless prosecutors work there asses off to prove that that person is guilty. It shouldn't be easy to send people to prison.
Eres o te haces?
Ime, yes, you can (re: above). I worked with a woman who refused to defend an alleged child molester, so another attorney in the firm (male) took the case.

Lawyers are rarely interested in innocence or guilt; rather, in the challenge of constructing a viable case. And trial lawyers, criminal defense or otherwise, are showmen (or women). They love the performance aspect, and the joy of winning a tough case (more money! more prestige!).

Sadly, I have a theory about the percentage of humanity left in most lawyers after they finish law school: about 30 per cent.
Originally Posted by claudine19
Really.
Originally Posted by curlyarca
30 per cent may be a bit low, but I don't disagree that that does happen to more than a few people. Many others didn't come in with much humanity to start.

It's not a lawyer's job to worry about innocence or guilt. That's up to the jury and/or judge. A prosecutor's job is to find the truth and a defense lawyer's job is to zealously but ethically advocate for his or her client and safeguard their rights. The lawyer's job is to assess the evidence before them and construct a theory of the case that has a shot at success and figure out the most effective way to present it. Not all lawyers will get money or prestige for their "wins" (ie. legal aid lawyers.)

It's funny that people so often ask this question about lawyers. Rescuers rescue "bad" people, doctors treat bad people, teachers teach bad people, etc. etc. etc. and don't seem to get so much flak for it.

As for myself, I have defended people ACCUSED of all kinds of stuff. It is not my job to judge that, nor did I have any choice as to which clients I would or would not take (you generally need to be quite senior to have that option, or work for yourself, or be willing to take a huge stand on a significant concern.) My clients were accused of doing "bad" things, but some of them had had horrific lives, were victims of terrible abuse and atrocious living conditions, had few options in life, etc. That doesn't necessarily excuse their actions, but to me, part of having humanity is seeing the humanity in other people no matter who they are or what they have done.

And winning for me really isn't about my ego - it's about giving someone a second chance, or holding the state accountable for ITS bad behaviour. Even if the Crown wins, if I've made it work in having to prove its case and being fair, I am OK with that.
Originally Posted by Amneris
All excellent points.

There are very few attorneys in my town that make above average earnings. Yes, most of the ones who do are corrupt. I live in a small town and 95% of the time it's more about who you know, than what you know. With that said there are some with lower pay grades who are worse. As with anything in life, it depends on the person.

I don't like saying that a group of people lacks humanity based on their profession. As Amneris said, not judging the client is part of the job. You have to remain unbiased. Also, having a profession that deals with 'less than' situations can and will wear on a person. It can and will change your outlook.

As Amneris pointed out, many others provide services for "bad" people. I face this on my job, very often. 75% of the assistance I give is to people one could deem 'less than' worthy. I will know good and well that everything coming out of their mouth is false. I know horrible things they have done and will likely do again, but that cant factor in *while on a call*. I have to be patient, polite, unbiased, and provide them the best service possible. Even when they are a cruel individual, and abusing my assistance to the fullest.

This is why I come on SIIDY and blow off steam, after I have done my part.

Worn out iPhone. Need I say more?
Nej and Amneris like this.
When I hear terms like "hipster" I think, who told cliques they could leave high school??

I totally get helping "bad" people. Almost all of my clients have some sort of criminal history, experience with CPS/DCS, and/or history with addiction and prostitution, etc. I always have unconditional positive regard for them. All professionals should feel that way about their clients. However, in my career I actually get to talk about these things and provide therapeutic services and referrals.

I've had a little experience working with PDs in children's court and juvenile court and they tend to be more interested in referring clients to services or at least talking to a social worker about services. Do private attys do this or attys in adult criminal court? And Im thinking more about habitual criminals.
Amneris likes this.
3c/4a
^ I'm not sure about that Po. I know a little bit about everything and a great deal about nothing, in relation to my job. *My phone is erasing sentences. By that I mean I'm not a lawyer, cop, social worker, fire fighter, therapist, doctor or nurse but I play a little of all these things, to some extent, while taking 911's.* I have nothing to do with the law or court, unless I'm asked to testify. I know several agencies recommend these things, but I don't see why a private lawyer couldn't or wouldn't. Especially if the client speaks to them seriously about it.

Worn out iPhone. Need I say more?
When I hear terms like "hipster" I think, who told cliques they could leave high school??


Last edited by Fifi.G; 07-24-2012 at 07:37 AM.
Sadly, I have a theory about the percentage of humanity left in most lawyers after they finish law school: about 30 per cent.
Originally Posted by claudine19
Don't forget that there are lawyers and there are those who are litigators. Granted, some of the litigators I have known have really been smarmy. But there are also housing lawyers, lawyers who work on human rights cases, lawyers clerk for supreme court justices, etc. I've known some really great lawyers who do nothing but work for family court.
Originally Posted by Springcurl
Absolutely - and those who do poverty/street law, or work for NGOs and charities, or give up lucrative offers to help others, or open their own shops and work their tails off, or don't even practice law but do some other kind of advocacy, or mediation, or policy work, or teach law, or do solely legal aid work, or do a ton of pro bono work, or lobby for legal reform, or draft and translate legislation, or work for unions, and so on.

I think some of the comments are based on big, wealthy, private law firms, which certainly don't represent all lawyers.
Originally Posted by Amneris
Or small town, independent lawyers, who are by no means rolling in dough and clients, yet still manage to prove that 30% rule.

Dogs and nature abhor a vacuum.
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Amneris (hey girl! Hope all is well!),

I know that attys don't really get into innocence or guilt with their clients, but in your experience is there even a conversation about getting AODA treatment for a substance abusing client or getting a young person involved in a mentoring program (I'm not talking about court or trying to get a lighter sentence)? What types of convo, if any, is had between an atty and a client in terms of the client not finding himself/herself in the same predicament?
Originally Posted by Po
I know you said "not court" LOL but there are "drug courts" and "juvenile drug ourts" in almost every county in Ohio. And if substance abuse fctors into your arrest and you are convicted of certain lower level felonies and other conditions are met, you are eligibe to participate in the drug court program...which involves meeting weekly w/ the judge and participating in formal treatment and 12 step and doing other things like writing a letter to your victims, etc...for a period of time in lieu of incarceration. And the judge decides at the end if you "graduate."

Do you have that?
3b (with 3c tendencies) on modified CG

Amneris (hey girl! Hope all is well!),

I know that attys don't really get into innocence or guilt with their clients, but in your experience is there even a conversation about getting AODA treatment for a substance abusing client or getting a young person involved in a mentoring program (I'm not talking about court or trying to get a lighter sentence)? What types of convo, if any, is had between an atty and a client in terms of the client not finding himself/herself in the same predicament?
Originally Posted by Po
In my experience, absolutely. We are not social workers or counsellors - the clients often want us to be, but that's not our area of expertise, and it is ethically wrong for us to try to delve into that. We have to stick to what we know, which is the legal defense. But if we notice someone is struggling with an issue, we have a long list of agencies we refer them to. And that goes for all clients, including family law and child protection, not just criminal clients. Often, if they're going for bail or a plea, it depends upon the judge being satisfied that they're going to get the appropriate help. However, we don't have a mechanism to force someone into treatment. If it's part of a court order like a bail condition or parole condition, then the police can arrest them if they don't comply. We do have an ethical obligation upon us if we think someone poses a danger to themself or others to report it, so if we know an addict has violent tendencies and is not in treatment, we are supposed to inform the authorities.

eta: In some cases, some lawyers do think that, if the person is denying everything, that seeking treatment is an admission of guilt so they won't pursue that before a person is convicted.
Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali












Last edited by Amneris; 07-24-2012 at 08:17 AM.
Amneris (hey girl! Hope all is well!),

I know that attys don't really get into innocence or guilt with their clients, but in your experience is there even a conversation about getting AODA treatment for a substance abusing client or getting a young person involved in a mentoring program (I'm not talking about court or trying to get a lighter sentence)? What types of convo, if any, is had between an atty and a client in terms of the client not finding himself/herself in the same predicament?
Originally Posted by Po
I know you said "not court" LOL but there are "drug courts" and "juvenile drug ourts" in almost every county in Ohio. And if substance abuse fctors into your arrest and you are convicted of certain lower level felonies and other conditions are met, you are eligibe to participate in the drug court program...which involves meeting weekly w/ the judge and participating in formal treatment and 12 step and doing other things like writing a letter to your victims, etc...for a period of time in lieu of incarceration. And the judge decides at the end if you "graduate."

Do you have that?
Originally Posted by spiderlashes5000
Yes, in Nashville we have drug court and a few years ago, the city received a large grant to start a mental health court which is awesome and seems to be doing well. I dont remember there being anything similar in WI besides a supervising program within the criminal system that handles offenders with AODA and mental health issues. Kinda like probation.
3c/4a
I had a sociology professor who was a lawyer and used to work as a public defender. A student once asked her if she's ever defended someone she knew was guilty. Her response: "I don't know, I've never asked. It's not my job to prove innocence, it's my job to show that the prosecution didn't prove guilt."

It took me aback, but after thinking about it I really liked that response. I don't care how heinous a person is, I don't want them convicted unless prosecutors work there asses off to prove that that person is guilty. It shouldn't be easy to send people to prison.
Originally Posted by legends
In most cases, concerning yourself with whether they are guilty or not only gets in the way of doing your job. The only time it is relevant is that you cannot allow testimony saying they didn't do it if you know or should know that they did.

The thing is, a lot of the time it is a lot less cut and dried than people imagine. You don't go to trial on the big issue of "he did it / I didn't do it" all that often. Many times, the Crown and defence will agree on which facts are not contested and which ones are, and focus on those. It isn't always about whether someone factually did it. For example, it could be that my client admits to participating in a group beating, but he denies kicking him in the head - he says he only kicked him in the body and someone else kicked him in the head, or the head injury happened later, and the medical evidence may be iffy on what caused the head wound, or it may be unclear who did what. So at trial, the Crown would argue that my client did the head kicking and put the victim on the stand who swears to it, and I would argue that my client did do some beating and should be held accountable for that but that he definitely did not do the head kicking because someone/something else did that, or the Crown cannot prove he did the head kicking. And all the evidence would centre on the nature of the head wounds and who saw what.


Other issues might be that the person did it, but is not criminally responsible due to mental illness, or severe intoxication, or it was self defence. Or they might admit to doing it and you're negotiating a plea agreement that will include a mechanism for them to get help. Or the only issue is what kind of sentence they will get. Or they did it, but the police also violated their rights and need to be held accountable for that by excluding evidence. Or the Crown had a good case but its witnesses choose to lie on the stand anyway (happens more often than you think.) Factual guilt or innocence isn't relevant for any of those. And if you're caught up in worrying that your client is a terrible person, you will miss some of those points or not give them your full attention.

Some people expect that if a victim, or the police, or a witness, say they saw X do something, that's enough to lock that person up right there and how dare anyone defend them or try to explore what really happened, but there are so many issues that need to be considered before doing something as drastic as sending a person to jail. We should all be grateful it doesn't work that way.
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Get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me. -Muhammad Ali












Last edited by Amneris; 07-24-2012 at 08:15 AM.

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