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The Sun-Times editorial board finally wrote something everybody should agree with, linked here. “Do the time, then we’ll decide if you’ve done the crime.” That’s how they describe what’s become of due process for indigent defendants in Illinois.

“A legal backlog has grown so lengthy that some defendants are getting hearings on their appeals only after they have already completed their sentences…. [L]awyers in the office have uncovered many egregious examples of innocent people who were wrongfully convicted.”

The editorial goes on:

It can take close to three years or more for a ruling from an appellate court if the opening brief isn’t filed for 21 months. Most defendants have finished serving their sentences by then.

Last week, the Injustice Watch website cited two cases in which defendants had completed sentences of seven and 10 years, taking into account day-for-day credit, before the appellate court ruled in their favor.

We’ve long written here that fundamental rights of indigent defendants were the first things chopped in our fiscal crisis. Nobody cares.

-Mark Glennon is founder and Executive Editor of Wirepoints. Opinions expressed are his own.

 

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Advocate

Representing the indigent as a Government Attorney, on a government salary, with government worksite conditions, is not what many lawyer’s dream of for thier careers. Thier salaries are a pittance, when compared to private sector lawyers. Worksite conditions sparse. Huge caseloads private lawyers NEVER see lest they run afoul of ABA stabndards. Then often the Appellate lawyers are attacked as being greedy public employees…who need to have thier pensions cut. Glad Wirepoints is concearned with the plight of the State Appellate Defenders funding concearns. These lawyers are paid for by the State to file appeals for those allready convicted of… Read more »

I think they aren’t being attacked for being greedy on pensions-but they could go from defined benefit to defined contribution and it would save the state a lot of money while giving them individual freedom and liberty over the money they earn.`

DMND

Recently, I worked for a local government and had a lot of contacts with “attorneys”. Many of these government attorneys are flunkies or bustouts. Many have never tried a case in a real courtroom and hav every little experience in certain fields. Also, these are the same people negotiating public sector labor contracts. I remember watching these atttroneys negotiate a contractural dispute with a national Union. They flew in a professional lawyer, from back East, and he made mince meat out of the attorneys representing the tax payers. It really put things into perspective, for me, in understanding why we… Read more »

nixit

Taxpayers are always going to be at a disadvantage when the other side does this for a living. Unions have “business representatives”, “field service directors”, and “Uniserv directors” who negotiate 24/7. Your local school board has well-intention-ed parents who would like to hold the line on costs but don’t want to be raked over coals if there is a strike. And when push comes to shove, no one wants to get power then be the guy associated with cuts and doesn’t get to spend.

nixit

How many government attorneys would rather be coding, making $35/hr w/ no vacation, crammed into a small, humid conference room with other lawyer coders? Probably not what many lawyer’s dream of for their careers either.

Government Attorneys are free to pursue opportunities elsewhere. My spouse worked for the AG for a few years but left due to the ineptness and lack of ambition of the office and management in general. Absolutely thriving in the legal field now.

jaherzrent

Lawyers can do great good or great harm. Hopefully more of these Government Attorneys are dedicated to our justice system than I suppose. Where that is the case, the pittance salaries and government worksite conditions are not significant factors. Is the proposal here that we should pay them more and give them window offices and pastry carts? A better solution would be to make it a condition of holding a law license that all lawyers step up to the plate and that take these cases (just as we all must serve on juries). No more “buying out of the draft”… Read more »

Advocate

This is truely front line duty for a lawyer. Akin to military service. Your client is allready convicted of rape or murder….or imagine a felony. Home Invasion. Armed Vehicle Hijacking whatever. You must travel to the Lock-up. Enter the most secure facility you can imagine to have a PRIVATE conversation with your client. The convicted felon who maintains his/her innocence is your client. The two of you will be spending much time togethor forging a defense….required teamwork with the quite often psychological and behavioral disturbed. Those talks are quite unique. Your opponent has the power and resources of the State,… Read more »