Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Who gets better results for clients: the fighter or the friend?

Image result for Carey Haughwout
This is a fascinating comparison between two Florida public defender offices that have very different approaches. Both are professional and civil. But the similarities end there. The marked contrast in philosophy and style raised the question: which gets better results for their clients? Read on:

Litty’s a marathon runner who is best friends with her region’s state attorney and married to a recently retired judge. She believes the system works best when her assistants get along with their opponents.
Haughwout smokes cigarettes as she paces the pavement outside the courthouse awaiting verdicts in cases she takes to trial. She maintains only a cordial relationship with her county’s top prosecutor and pushes her assistants to fight for everything from bond relief to acquittals.
Each believes her approach brings the best results for clients.
But Litty’s clients spend twice as long behind bars for the same crimes, an investigation by The Palm Beach Post and Sarasota Herald-Tribune found.
The  article, Sharp contrast stands out in public defenders Carey Houghout and Diamond Litty, goes on to detail the empirical study, comparison, and results from over 800 cases.

Try not to take up smoking, but otherwise we would all do well to emulate Carey. Be professional, be civil, but don’t let the small things pass by unnoticed, and certainly not in the name of prosecutorial comradery. When the government violates the discovery provisions, ignores deadlines, listens to our attorney-client phone calls . . . . when they say, as they most always do, “no harm, no foul”, or “I didn’t listen to your calls, but I could have,”-- don’t let that go.  

When we look back, blaming the government for unfair prosecutions or outcomes, remember we bear some of that responsibility because, at times, we didn’t do our work, we didn’t read the plea agreement carefully, we didn’t object to relevant conduct, we waived appeals without knowing the issues. Our system is designed to be adversarial, and that is the only way it will work.


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