QUESTION

What do you do if your public defender is not working on your case?

Asked on Jul 24th, 2011 on Criminal Law - Michoacán
More details to this question:
My husband is currently incarcerated on serious felony charges he has been assigned a public defender whom he has only had contact with briefly for the five minutes he appears in court. He has written several letters asking him to come and discuss his case as well as multiple phone calls from myself to discuss the case he does not return the calls. When asked what his plan for defense is, he just says wait and see what the offer is. He is unaware of many of the facts of the case and often seems confused what I ask him about witness statements or police reports I am often given the answer I was unaware of that or I don’t know I’ll be in touch with you but never see him again until the next court date. I understand that Public defenders are extremely busy and I cannot afford to hire an attorney but I am afraid that my husband is not being given the defense he is entitled to. What should we do?
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Answered on Mar 18th, 2019 at 9:43 AM
If you are unhappy with a public defender, you always have the option of hiring an attorney. You can switch to a private counsel or from one private counsel to another. Switching public defender's however is very difficult. You do not necessarily have the right to a court appointed attorney that satisfies your desires when it comes to representation.

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Answered on Jun 15th, 2018 at 4:06 AM
This is a big problem in our Court system right now. Because of budget and staff cuts, the already burdened Public Defender's office has been overwhelmed by their huge case load, and I hear stories like yours over and over again. It is unacceptable and you need to take action right away. If you can't get his Supervisor to make this Public Defender properly represent your husband, then do what you can to find an Attorney who will. Many Criminal Defense Lawyers will work with you on fees and payment plans. This is just too important to let negligence decide your husband's fate.

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Answered on Jul 11th, 2013 at 9:35 PM
There are many private attorneys who are willing to work with you on payments.

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Answered on Aug 04th, 2011 at 1:49 PM
Thank you for your inquiry In the most extreme case, you could ask the judge to assign a new attorney. However, there is not guarantee that the new attorney will be an improvement over what you experience. Keep in mind that the attorney is responsive to the client, not the client's wife. If the attorney were to respond to numerous phone calls from spouses, family, friends, etc, it would be overwhelming and not productive. All of the discussions between the attorney and the client are confidential. Therefore, a phone conversation with a spouse is almost never as informative as you might like. Also, there is the question of strategy. Some of the things that may be very important to the client or the client's family, may simply not be that important in the defense strategy of the case. Where the evidence is overwhelming, negotiation of a favorable plea may be the best path of inquiry. The facts of each case vary, and so does the efficient way to address concerns. In the best of worlds, the attorney can answer all of the questions and there will be no frustration. In the best situation, you should retain an attorney to represent him. Without this, you are left with an appointed attorney and some frustrations. I hope that this was helpful

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Answered on Jul 28th, 2011 at 12:36 PM
At very minimum you should find the money to come in and have an experienced criminal defense lawyer review the police report and tell you what should be done and put that in writing. Then your husband should show that list to the public defender and if he refuses to do those things your husband can bring a Marsden hearing to ask that the court appoint a different lawyer. The problem as you already know is that in 2011 the public defenders are swamped in most areas with cases and it is difficult for them to provide your husband the defense he may need.

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Eric Michael Mark
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Answered on Jul 28th, 2011 at 11:25 AM
You only have two choices. Deal with the public defender or hire an attorney. Sometimes you need to sacrifice other things to hire a lawyer if that is what's most important. You have to get your priorities in order and try. Depending on the charges, location, and you, a lawyer may negotiate a fee or a payment plan.

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Answered on Jul 28th, 2011 at 6:21 AM
Don't short change the public defender. He may be working the case without your knowledge, and to some extent that of your husband. You don't say what the charges are that your husband is dealing with, or what type of evidence there is against your husband. The PD may also be reluctant to discuss the details of the case with you because of confidentiality issues. It may also be that your husband's case is not a very good case and the PD is trying to work the best deal possible under the circumstances. If you are uncomfortable with the PD, you may have no other choice, or try to amass the funds necessary to hire a private attorney.

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Answered on Jul 27th, 2011 at 10:10 AM
Document you complaints in letters to the public defender and if you get no satisfaction then ask the judge to assign a different attorney.

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Answered on Jul 27th, 2011 at 8:59 AM
Hire your own lawyer.

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Answered on Jul 27th, 2011 at 8:47 AM
Hire a private attorney.

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 4:16 PM
Public Defenders are very busy. Maybe this is an explanation. If not, ask to speak to his supervisor or hire a private attorney.

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 3:22 PM
You can ask to speak to the public defender's supervisor. Your husband can explain his concerns to the judge next time he's in court. You can hire an attorney.

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 1:50 PM
You always get better service if you retain counsel.

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 12:53 PM
You can make an appointment with the lawyer and express your dissatisfaction.

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Michael J. Breczinski
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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 12:28 PM
First is to find out about the attorney. Some attorneys can be great but don't communicate well. Some are not good attorneys. Have you made an appointment with him to sit down and discuss the case? Trying to catch an attorney on the phone or in a hallway is not the best way to talk to him. He may not have his file or he could be thinking about something else. If I get a call from out of the blue asking about a case, I often can't answer questions without refering to the file.

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 11:07 AM
A public defender has the same obligations to represent a client as an attorney you may hire. If the public defender is not doing his job, you could always hire your own attorney. Otherwise, you husband could bring the matter to the attention of the court arguing that he is receiving ineffective assistance of counsel.

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Jeff Fengcheng Yeh
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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 10:26 AM
PD's simply have way too many cases to stay focused on any one case. Time to hire a competent private attorney!

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 9:13 AM
You can ask to speak to their supservisor and you are always free to hire a private lawyer. If they are not doing what is required, you can also discuss this with the state bar association.

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 8:31 AM
If you are unhappy with PD even after attempting to fix that relationship you may be forced to seek a differenct attorney. The court may permit PD to withdraw if attorney client relationship has deteriorated to such a point that there is no trust. Sadly court may appoint a contract counsel who may or may not be more involved. If you have no funds that is your best option. If you have funds to hire private counsel find the best in the area and make an appointment to meet. I routinely meet with folks incarcerated and am sure any competent defense lawyer in your area would do the same. Good luck.

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 8:02 AM
My suggestion is that your Husband report his dissatisfaction to the Judge. If the Judge maybe able to appoint someone else to your Husband's case.

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 8:01 AM
If you are unhappy with a public defender you should seek a free consultation with a private defense attorney.

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Answered on Jul 26th, 2011 at 7:49 AM
Public Defenders do have tremendous case loads and normally do not have the time to spend with their clients that either they or their clients would like. However, they are expected to keep their Clients informed off any and all progress and to at least be familiar with the case and what's in the police reports, etc. He could try making a motion to have a new counsel appointed, but judges rarely grant those unless there are serious problems. But if it's reaching a point to where he is not communicating, communicating effectively, or seemingly doing anything at all regarding the case, it may have to come to that. Your husband is entitled to effective representation. Perhaps consider calling up his superior at the Public Defender's office and speak with them with your concerns.

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Answered on Jul 25th, 2011 at 3:12 PM
You already answered your question. Hire private counsel, or try to talk to the PD office about getting a substitute for your current PD if you can show he is actually not working. I doubt that is true, or at least not in the eyes of the Supervising PD. Remember, the PD is not paid by our tax dollars to hold your hand through the process, that is what people pay private counsel for. The PD may have dozens of cases on calendar each day, with little time to even read the file, let alone go visit the jail on each of those dozens of cases. If the case actually gets seriously set for trial, there will be more attention given it, by PD and investigators.

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Answered on Jul 25th, 2011 at 3:02 PM
In a situation like this you cannot request an other public defender. Most public defenders are good and have the advantage of working the same courthouse all the time, so they know the people to deal with. It is not unusual for then not to discuss a case with a family member as there is a rule of confidence with them and the client. That said your only options are to talk with his superior or hire a private attorney.

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Answered on Jul 25th, 2011 at 2:43 PM
As you said public defenders are often have too many cases on there plate.Hiring a private attorney is usually your best option and, if you can, borrow the money or otherwise try to make payment arrangements with a private attorney . Otherwise, keep after your public defender and go above his/her head if necessary. It is your husband's and your future on the line and now is not the time for somebody to drop the ball. Good luck.

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Answered on Jul 25th, 2011 at 2:35 PM
I think the first thing to do is to speak to the lawyer's supervisor and discuss your concerns.

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Answered on Jul 25th, 2011 at 1:56 PM
Most courts will not substitute one court appointed lawyer for another. You may be able to find an attorney that is willing to work on a payment plan. With a deposit, you can often pay the remaining balance on a monthly payment plan.

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Answered on Jul 25th, 2011 at 1:42 PM
The reason the attorney may not be returning your calls is because of the attorney-client privilege that precludes him from talking about the details of the case with you. However, it sounds as if your husband has not been able to tell the attorney important information about the case. I would advise that your husband write his attorney and keep a copy of the letter for himself. Worst case scenario, your husband may request another attorney but that may cause him to have to go to the Court which should really be a last resort. Have him write the attorney detailed letters which can may be able to help the attorney formulate a defense.

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Answered on Jul 25th, 2011 at 1:41 PM
This is a complaint I often hear about Public Defenders. A criminal defendant is entitled to a competent attorney, nothing more. That means that the public defender does not "have to" return every phone call, or work for 5 hours on someone case every day, etc. It is unfortunate, but that is the reality of the public defender's office. Many are excellent attorneys, they are just over-worked and have large caseloads, which can mean that some people do not get the type of attention their case deserves. It sounds like your husband is in this position. Please keep in mind that, when someone hire's a private attorney, that is essentially what they are paying for. A private attorney doesnt work for the court/government. They are paid by their clients to evaluate the case and represent them, giving the case and client the proper attention. If your husband is asking his public defender to visit him in custody, that will NOT happen. Public Defenders just can't do that. I suggest you at least consult with some attorneys in your area to see what they charge, and if they offer payment plans. Some private criminal defense attorneys will. You never know if you can hire an attorney until you know how much they charge. If you absolutely cannot hire an attorney, you can request a "Marsden" hearing, where your husband can ask the judge to change his public defender. Good luck!

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Answered on Jul 25th, 2011 at 1:31 PM
Hire a private attorney. You have clearly outlined the problems with this public defender and you really have no other choice.

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