Thursday, September 11, 2008

Reasons for PD departures explored

The Dallas Observer has a feature titled "Broken Cogs" focused on the fallout from five attorneys resigning in recent weeks from the Dallas Public Defender office as a result of high caseloads, new bureaucracy and quotas that swamped even the most productive lawyers. The story prominently features our pal Mike Howard, the former kickboxer turned public defender who recently left the PD office to launch his own law firm, and more importantly, his own blog.

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29 comments:

Cicero Lost said...

The quality of justice in Dallas County ranks it with the worst in the Country. Its a national embarrassment . To even consider cutting funding and increasing case loads is a sign that residents have learned to accept the unacceptable. They have become desensitized to abomination.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
William butler Yeats

123txpublicdefender123 said...

Well, it's been a long time, but I couldn't ignore what's going on at my old office. I am so saddened by what is happening there, and, after speaking with one former co-worker who is one of the recent resignees as well as another who is trying to stick it out, I have such great respect for both. It is a nightmare. I can say one thing for sure. John Wiley Price is a liar and a fool. There is no question that felony attorneys were ORDERED to take 40 new felony cases a month. This order came from county officials outside the PD office (either the Commissioners or the budget office--it wasn't clear to me). For John Wiley Price to state otherwise is nothing but BS. The other thing I know is that John Wiley Price knows nothing about the work ethic and integrity of the attorneys who have resigned. They are dedicated public servants who believed very strongly in representing the rights of the indigent accused. And to brand them as crybabies and whiners who were upset that they couldn't be so lazy anymore is outright slander.

I wish my former colleagues the best of luck, whether you have left the office or are trying to still do the best you can in such difficult circumstances. And I hope that someone finally does something to put an end to the reign of terror being perpetrated by JWP on that office.

Anonymous said...

Good for John Wiley Price! Weed out the PD's that can't take the heat! Poor former PD Howard had two cases on the docket. Anyone who practices criminal law in Dallas County knows that a defense attorney can talk to the Judge and D.A. and know which case is going to trial. By the way, who set the trials fo the same day!
As far as 40 cases, half of those cases probably hire a "REAL ATTORNEY" and the other half are probation violations and state jail felonies that will never see a jury trial. Real taxing handling 5 to 10 real cases a month! Abolish the PD's office Dallas Citizens can do better!!!!!!!

123txpublicdefender123 said...

Anonymous (18:00), it is obvious from your comment that you are ignorant. Why were the cases set on the same day? Probably because both clients were in jail and had been waiting some time for their trials. Also, while the court will tell you what the priority is for the next day, if the prosecution has some reason for a continuance on the #1 case, then the court will expect the parties to be ready on the #2 case, and so on. A day of trial plea on the higher priority case could also result in the lower priority case being called to trial. As the attorney, you need to be ready on both.

I know many of the attorneys at the Dallas PD office, including Mike Howard, because I worked there for 4 1/2 years. I know that Mike, and many of his colleagues there, are dedicated and hard working people who believe in zealously representing their clients. You, clearly, are just an ignorant person who finds pleasure in tearing down people who you know nothing about with accusations for which you have no basis in fact.

Anonymous said...

Dear 123,
Seriously, who set the trials for the same day? The defense attorney! It's his fault?
You write how great these people are from personal exprience, and since you assume that I have no personal experience with them I cannot give an opinion on the subject because I am not a PD.
Wow, I guess you can't opine on the racial discrimination I've suffered in America unless your Black and have suffered like I have!
Who's the ignorant one!
By the way, I've worked in the PD's office since last century and continue to work there! I know the incompetent people and will continue to identify them for JWP and the entire Commissioner's Court!

Brad Lollar said...

Anonymous 9/11, 6:10 p.m.
You are a liar. You do not now, nor have you ever worked for the Dallas PDs office. No one as ignorant as you would ever have gotten hired, and if you did, I would have fired you.

Anonymous said...

you got hired?

Brad Lollar said...

Another thought. Now, this anonymous person is claiming to be a black employee, of at least eight years, obviously embittered, of the Dallas PDs office, and claims to have been funneling information about the office to JWP. No one like that exists in the PDs office. Period. Don't believe it, readers.

However, what is intriguing is that someone would claim to. What is this person up to, and, more importantly, why?

Brad Lollar said...

A little test for anonymous 6:10. As a current member of the PDs office who's been there for 8 years, you'll surely remember this:

Where did we hold last year's Christmas party?

Where did we hold our Thanksgiving celebration?

Where did we all go to celebrate Secretaries and Administrative Assistants Day?

See, I told you. You're a liar.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Thanks for policing false comments, Brad. I hope you're doing well. The way things are going, maybe being forced out will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Hey Brad, please shoot me an email at shenson@austin.rr.com - if you don't mind, I'd like to correspond privately.

Anonymous said...

John Wiley Price will win the war!

Anonymous said...

anonymous 8:57pm...no doubt standing in the middle of some street disrupting traffic as in the past. JWP is a moron Jessie Jackson wannabe. Whe he wins this war you speak of one can only hope he sinks with the ship. Blessed relief for Dallas.

Anonymous said...

If by "win" the writer means demoralizing an entire county agency and accelerating the pace toward professional burnout, then he/she may be right. I don't, however, see that as a particularly desirable outcome either for the employees or the citizens of Dallas County.

I know plenty of folks who were at the meeting when those 40 felony/ 100 misdemeanor case assignment quotas were announced. I doubt seriously they were suffering from a mass delusional episode about what was said.

Whether it was funneled through Budget or came directly from the commissioners is irrelevant. Nothing happens like that in this county's government that JWP doesn't know about. Comm. Price's denial in the Observer article rings somewhat hollow.

Mike Howard said...

Brad and 123txpublicdefender123 - thanks for coming to my aide. While you've both pretty much said it all, I'd still like to clarify my own thoughts.

1. Setting multiple trials for the same day is a necessity if you handle the number of cases the PDs handle. Otherwise they'd be setting trials YEARS out into time. If that were the case, clients and the public would (rightly) complain that the PDs weren't handling the docket efficiently.
2. 123 said it perfectly about "knowing" which case will go on a particular day. You never know. The DA could be wrong, the witness could not show up, the DA could simply decide they need more time to investigate. I can't count the number of times I was told my case would absolutely go to trial only to see it get passed for one reason or another. That's why you MUST prepare for any case that's on the docket - no matter how far down the docket it lies. If it's set for a trial or a hearing, you MUST be ready. To do otherwise would be incompetent and ineffective representation.
3. I am not some lazy PD who didn't want to do the work. If you work in the PDs office then you're privy to the court stats. If you see those you can tell I took on well above the REQUIRED number of cases every month. And my docket never swelled out of control because I managed it by disposing of my cases in an effective manner. And I took cases to trial.
4. My docket didn't consist of 10-15 "real" cases. All of my cases were "real." I handled murder, sex assault, weapons crimes, drug crimes, DWI's, aggravated assaults,...you name it. Many of my cases were enhanced with prior convictions so that my clients faced 25-life.

In sum, you don't know what you're talking about. Anyone who knows me knows I work hard and care about my clients and how I represent them. I don't claim to be the greatest attorney of all time, but I know I'm not some schlub either.

Mike Howard said...

Oh, and Scott - that's current kickboxer. I have the currently broken nose to prove it!

Anonymous said...

Mike-
Those of us in the know either from working in the PD's office or watching PD's bust their arses handling the dockets know how it really is. Don't worry about that clod. I don't know you, though we've met, but lots of us out there know defense lawyers don't control the dockets any more than we can command the tides or shift the earth on its axis. Hang in there as you develop your practice and know there is much solidarity out there for current and former PDs.

Mike Howard said...

Thanks Anonymous 7:47. I appreciate the solidarity!

123txpublicdefender123 said...

Mike, I'm glad you came here to defend yourself. I know we didn't work in the office together long, but I know that you are someone of integrity, and someone who was a public defender because you sincerely believed in the importance of what you did both for the system you worked in and for the real lives of your clients.

You know who I am, so please pass on all my best wishes to everyone who remains at the office. And good luck to you in private practice.

Anonymous said...

Who is the Public Defender now? I heard that no new attorney's are going to be hired and now some PD's will have to cover more than one court. (80 cases?)
I'm sure the Judges will be happy about that.

Anonymous said...

I understand there is currently a hiring freeze. I may be wrong, but last time I check there weren't any PD positions listed on the Dallas County job postings. Will that be lifted when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1? Who knows?

As far as who the Public Defender is now, I assume you mean the Chief PD. I think that's Lynn Richardson, although I'm not sure if she's the permanent chief or just the interim chief. Maybe someone with more information could help us out on this point.

Mike Howard said...

123tx - check your blogspot email. I sent you something. I'll definitely pass your hello's along.

Anonymous said...

Anyone catch the DMN city hall blog posting about JWP's latest adventure in name calling? Though not his best work, it strikes me as further evidence JWP is morphing into a caricature of himself.

Anonymous said...

I understand that yet another felony PD has submitted their resignation. And there's a court case out of Miami, where the PD's filed suit over excessive caseloads. They won in the trial court. Appeal will surely follow, but why?

Anonymous said...

I suppose that's a good thing for those in the misdemeanor section who've been waiting for a promotion. Then again, there's the old saying, "be careful what you ask for..."

Certainly doesn't speak well for the turn over rates.

I wonder why, if the case assignment quotas have been scaled back (Sorry, JWP, they exist whether you'll admit it or not) and the weekly JWP stats and the practice of filling out pay sheets have been discontinued, would people still be resigning.

Interesting reference to the court case in Miami. Do you know if those were individual PDs or if the suit was filed by the administration of the office? Florida has the advantage of having elected Chief PDs so there's not the same possibility for blowback as there would be here where PDs serve at the sufferance of the gods.

Anonymous said...

Well, Dallas County has attempted to publish the budget for FY 09 online, but the idiots just put up the old 2008 budget.

Anonymous said...

The budget is available now at:

http://www.dallascounty.org/department/budget/fy2009_budget.html

gsxr fairings said...

I think a budget like this should be re-considered including areas that never benefit directli from the current administrations.

Home Decor said...

You got a point here!