Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The End of High Quality Representation in Defense Cases in NC

NC is moving to a per case fee award in indigent cases. This is the worst possible method of paying criminal cases.

Under this system, lawyers stand to make the most money for the least work if they:

1) Don't regularly meet with their client
2) Don't investigate their case
3) Always advise their client to plead guilty
4) Never file motions
5) Don't read discovery carefully
6) Don't pay for exhibits to be created
7) Don't file bond reduction motions
8) Don't find other pending or cases dismissed with leave to wrap up in a plea deal
9) Don't go to trial

If you actually vigilantly represent your client, expect to make $10 to $20 an hour.

For example, they expect lawyers to close up to 68 low level felony cases for $19,500. That's $286 a case. I wouldn't represent someone for spitting on the sidewalk for $286.

Meet with your client 2-3 times in jail, have a bond hearing, read discovery, interview one witness, meet with DA twice to work out a deal, sit around 2-3 times in court and put on a plea. That's 10 hours of work (at least) at $28/hour. I took on $120,000 in student loans for this?

Meet with your client 5-6 times, locate multiple witnesses and prepare them for trial, read discovery, file motions to suppress evidence, file motions in limine, prepare for trial, sit through a three day trial, win a not guilty verdict for your client and he goes home to his family. That's 40-80 hours of work at a minimum. You just made $3.57 to $7.15 an hour. That, is what we call, utter crap.

The last class E felony I tried (which counts as a "low level felony") took me 80 hours and I spent $300 on exhibits. Under this system, I'd be better off to go flip burgers at McDonald's.

Adequate representation in criminal cases is official over. I used to scoff at client's who said the following, but I won't any more: YOU BETTER GET A PAID LAWYER.

See the RFP for the debacle here. Also note, this horrible idea isn't coming out of the indigent defense system--which actually cares about the representation of poor people, but rather the legislature that is determined to continue wrecking our state...

1 comment:

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