Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Public Defender Hiring

In his memoir, Charles Ogletree talks about the hiring process when he worked for the District of Columbia's Public Defender Service in the 1970s:

The interview process at PDS was rigorous, with ten applicants for every position. * * * The committee of at least six public defenders asked applicants about the extent of their clinical or public-interest work in law school, their summer jobs while there, their capacity to empathize with the poor, their commitment to work seven days a week, their loyalty to defense work, and their ability to handle the pressures of hard cases and difficult clients.

An applicant was scrutinized for his or her fitness not to join a firm but to join a struggle. * * * We were looking for people willing to talk to a mother whose son had allegedly been murdered by a PDS client, and see what disparaging things she might offer about her deceased son. We were looking for people willing to seek witnesses, int he middle of the night if necessary, and find them in drug dens, poolhalls, homeless shelters, jails and prisons, or wherever else they might hide. We wanted individuals committed enough to go to the medical examiner's office, view an autopsy, if possible, and review the findings, looking for errors, omissions, or exaggerations in the evidence. We wanted bold, courageous people, willing to stand up to judges and face the real risk of being held in contempt. In short, zealous defense of our clients knew no bounds, except lawlessness.
Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education, at 86-87 (2005).

Hiring public defenders reminds me of a post I saw recently at Injustice Anywhere ... The author had seen a blog post that suggested that PDs won't hire people who have worked for prosecutors:
That's just nuts. In my old office in Texas, we had a number of former prosecutors in our office. * * * Trust me when I say that having volunteered or worked at a prosecutor's office was NOT a black mark. It was a plus. Anything that illustrated an interest in criminal law was a plus. * * * [O]ne of the best, if not THE best way to get criminal trial experience right out of the gate is to go work for a prosecutor's office. That kind of experience, even if it's on the side of the prosecution, is incredibly valuable to a public defender. * * * [T]he idea that working for a prosecutor should disqualify you from being a public defender is simply ludicrous. A good lawyer is a good lawyer. And if that good lawyer can bring the passion and professionalism to representing the indigent accused that she brought to representing the state, then the indigent accused are better off. That's the way I see it.
Switching Sides, Jan. 2, 2007.

Ogletree's book is available in the library (KF4757 .O35 2004 at Classified Stacks) (well, it's not available right now because it's checked out, but you know what I mean) -- and you can bid on an autographed copy if you come to the PILA Auction on February 2.

Graphic from

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