Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Not Everyone Gets a Defense Lawyer? What Kind of Country Do You Think We Are Running Here?
Why is it that some of the best quotes I’ve heard have been on Youtube and on public internet forums? I remember reading a comment that a person wrote on YouTube. The topic was on the dealth penalty and about the argument that the death penalty saves money so that’s why it should be implemented. In response to this a person (who goes by the username, “kjmehal”) wrote, “’It's cheaper’ So? Our justice system should be about JUSTICE not about money.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSwZ2_4yFrI –page 4). I agree with kjmehal. Now, I’m not voicing my opinion on the death penalty, simply the idea that justice is bought. It is a sad truth, but this is the case. I don’t call the justice system the justice system, but the legal system. I call it the legal system for a few reasons. One, what is justice is arguable. Lawyers, jurors, and judges don’t have a monopoly on justice. Plenty of things are laws which are unjust and plenty of things are unjust which are allowed. Justice is something to discuss, it’s not an absolute that any system can determine. What is justice isn’t so clear (if it even exists at all). What the judges and lawmakers decide isn’t what is just but what is legal. It’s very arrogant for someone to think that they are the arbitrator of justice. The so called justice system determines what is allowed, not what is right, since what is right is a matter of debate and while society’s rules might be legal that doesn’t make them just. For instance, slavery and segregation were allowed, but were they just? During the 1950s, while segregation was certainly legal, it wasn’t certainly just. While I am a pretty hardcore libertarian, I believe that there are a few things people have a right to. John Locke said that people have a right to “life, liberty, and property.” I agree. I feel that what our tax money should go to is to try to punish people who take away those three things from others as well as making sure people who are threatened with people having their “life, liberty, and property” taken away from there are entitled to a defense. The law should protect everybody. I don’t believe in the shifting of power roles or taking something from one person and giving it to another, but everyone is entitled to a defense. If the legal system really cares about justice as it claims, then people shouldn’t have to buy justice; that’s called bribery. Once someone puts a price on justice, you lose all respect for the law. There is a famous joke about a guy who sees a woman on the street and offers her money if she will go to bed with him. “I will pay you a million dollars to go to bed with me,” the man tells the woman. “Okay,” is her response. “How about one dollar? I’ll give you a dollar if you sleep with me,” the man says. “What kind of a person do you think I am?” the woman responds. “What kind of person you are we’ve already established; now we’re just talking price,” the man states. This joke, like the best jokes, has truth to it. If it’s wrong to pay a person a dollar for sex, paying them a million dollars doesn’t make it right, it shows that their morals can be bought. Justice should have no price tag. Justice can be bought unfortunately (isn’t that what lobbyists are for?) and occurs daily, but that doesn’t mean it should continue. There are a few things in our LEGAL system that makes sure everyone gets a defense, but it seems that there are people who want to take this away. Gov. of Mass., Deval L. Patrick wants to change the current system of providing legal representation to poor criminal defendants. Patrick proposes to hire 1,000 additional full-time state attorneys instead of having the state pay private lawyers to represent the poor criminal defendants. “Gov. Deval Patrick recommended that oversight of the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPSC) be moved to the executive branch of the state government, and has proposed budget cuts to CPCS and the private bar-advocate program. “(http://www.masscounsel.org/2011/03/09/more-criticism -about-proposed-changes-to-the-massachusetts-public-defense-system/) Patrick says that he wants to save the taxpayers’ money, since private lawyers are expensive. Patrick feels that hiring private, independent lawyers cost more than having lawyers employed by the state. The private lawyers that Patrick wants to get rid of come from nonprofit organizations that are made to help represent poor defendants. There have been many critiques about what Patrick is proposing. According to attorney and bar advocate, Susan Edgett: “Bar advocates have been accused of being expensive to the state. But in 98 percent of cases handled by bar advocates, the state pays $50 a billable hour. Out of that amount they are required to pay the costs to maintain their own malpractice insurance, pay their own self-employment tax, and maintain an office with the overhead expenses of computers, paper, and telephone. While not required, if a bar advocate chooses, he or she may obtain at his or her own cost medical/dental/life insurance, continuing education, pension benefits, and office support staff. Conversely, many of these items are provided to the district attorneys’ offices and none of them are included in the $92 million budget often cited by the district attorneys. Should Patrick implement his new public-defender model, these cost benefits will have to be paid by the taxpayer.” (http://www.masscounsel.org/2011/03/09/more-criticism -about-proposed-changes-to-the-massachusetts-public-defense-system/) David P. Hoose, president of Hampden County Lawyers for Justice, which administers the private bar advocate program in Massachusetts has been a lawyer for 31 years. Hoose said, “The best system for providing indigent defense is the one that we have here in Massachusetts. Not only the best for providing quality indigent defense which we should all be concerned about but it is the best bang for your buck.” (http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/ 2011/03/lawyers_ask_legislators_to_der.html). Hoose also mentions that defense lawyers who represent poor defendants hardly get rich out of defending them. Hoose mentions that defense attorneys represent poor defendants because they believe that everyone deserves a defense and that the lawyers believe that their clients are innocent. Anthony C. Bonavita, a lawyer who does a large amount of bar advocate work, said “that lawyers who take cases as bar advocates are businessmen who in turn spend money in the city on office rent, meals, business supplies and other things.” (http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/ 03/lawyers_ask_legislators_to_der.html). “Bonavita said after doing his tax return he wondered ‘why I continue doing this, I’m probably crazy....But, you do continue doing this because you have a passion for it, and you love the work and the bottom line is you’re trying to help people.’” (http://www.masslive.com/news/ index.ssf/2011/03/lawyers_ask_legislators_to_der.html). Former Northampton District Court Judge W. Michael Ryan criticized Patrick’s proposal, saying, “ “If Governor Patrick truly believes that our system of justice is expensive wait until he sees the price tag of the injustice system he has proposed” (http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/ 2011/03/lawyers_ask_legislators_to_der.html). It seems that Patrick has many people criticizing his proposal. They are saying that what Patrick plan on doing won’t save the tax payers money. What will end up happening if Patrick succeeds in his goal is not just costing the taxpayers more money, but will have the poor be represented by lawyers less skilled and qualified than the lawyers they have now. One wonders how what Patrick is proposing is just. What do you think of what Patrick is proposing? What do you think the goal of the legal system should be? What do you think about the points I brought up? Gary Rome Auto Group would love to hear your thoughts on what you feel justice is and what Patrick is doing. So please share your thoughts, there is no need to plead the Fifth here.