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You think your job sucks?

February 18, 2014

You think your job sucks?

Pity the poor Public Defender. They have the toughest gig in the world. First off, they have truly astronomical case loads. (I once did 120 misdemeanor pretrials myself, alone, in a single day, as  Public Defender. Yikes!) They are under incredible pressure from the bosses to “be efficient”, i.e. cut corners at every opportunity. They have the meanest, most contemptuous clients on Earth. They are almost universally regarded with scorn and disgust by all other parties in the court system, especially judges and  District Attorneys. They get almost no support from any quarter. They are paid very poorly.

And, need I mention, it is pretty much the last choice for law school graduates? Only if you can’t get a job anywhere else and you are desperate, do you take a job at the PD’s office. (It was true for me too at the time.)  And the turnover rate is just astronomical. I don’t even bother memorizing the names of the Public Defenders in Kern County, since the odds are that they will working someplace else, anywhere else, in three months. They traditionally are frantically searching for jobs in LA from day one. Once they get a few paychecks and a couple of trials under their belt, they bolt for somewhere, anywhere, else.

It is the most unrewarding job you can imagine. The merest “Thank you” is so rare and treasured. It just makes your week, since you are used to being shit upon like a toilet pretty much the rest of your month, or year. When I talk to them, I just feel such compassion for them. If I ever think my job sucks, a quick conversation with my friendly nearby Public Defender reminds me how good I have it.

At least I can refuse to take the cases of the really evil dirt bags: The poor Public Defenders (or Public Pretenders, as they are universally known in the local jails) have no choice. No matter how dirty, mean, nasty, worthless and lowdown your client is, you are stuck with him. In other words, you ARE the toilet, pal. There is no place else to flush him. As a private criminal defense attorney, I can and do refuse cases and clients. Act a fool, treat me like crap, have unreasonable expectations, and watch how fast you exit my office: The waiting room is always full of people who need me. The poor Public Defender is just stuck, period. Wow. You have not lived until some dirty, stinky, heroin addict who would get immediately tossed out of any business establishment in town calls you a “piece of shit” two seconds after meeting you because he doesn’t like Public Defenders and he knows you are utterly helpless to do anything about it. Horrible.

So, when you take the last place law school students, treat them like crap, pay them poorly, give them the worst scumbags, and make them miserable every day, plus they typically are the least experienced person in the room, what do you get? A poor defense. Surprise!


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