So, one of the programs I have installed allows me to see referrals to this blog. One of the people who looked at the blog Googled "are public defenders happy"? Well I can't answer that of course. But I think that generally we are. I think that generally we take a certain amount of pride in the words of Harper Lee. "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. " (Chapter 11 To Kill a Mockingbird). I think we are generally smart, tough, funny people. Of course we choose work that can be tough. I don't care what any DA says: being a public defender is harder. I have proof positive. I could go back to Ukiah California where I started in 2000. I bet I would know 90% of the DA's there even 10 years later. But if I walked over to the PD's office, it would be full of strangers. The same is true of every PD office. In only three years I have just about risen to second in seniority in Kenai (and I will be second on December 1). Three years. So are we happy? I can't answer that. Sometimes I am. At this time of year I seem to struggle a bit. I hate slowing down. I hate being inactive. I do appreciate that Alaska seems to slow down. The tourists and dipnetters are gone. It am preparing for my upcoming murder trial. I have started cooking more. Enjoying the fire. So. To whoever googled "are public defenders happy". I think that generally we are. The work we do makes a difference. We consider ourselves the last barrier against the government. While so many sleep away, it is a select few who stand up for freedom on a daily basis. There may be some who consider this bullshit. But too bad. None of them are public defenders. It can be a good life. As long as you don't tie your self esteem to the job. If you need to win, go be a DA. If you can lose over and over and over and over and over and yet be proud of what you do, then welcome friend.

Comments

John said…
Hi,

I found your blog while searching for the Fairbanks PD website and enjoyed the posts. It looks like god's country up there.

Alex

PS- how's the hiring situation for new law school grads?
Justin T. said…
I found your blog by googling "granny trannies."
Anonymous said…
“No other offense has ever been visited with such severe penalties as seeking to help the oppressed.”

“Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt.”

“You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man's freedom. You can be free only if I am free.”


“I have suffered from being misunderstood, but I would have suffered a hell of a lot more if I had been understood.”

“Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.”

Clarence Darrow quotes
Anonymous said…
Ben,

I have been a PD now for 2.5 years (was a divorce lawyer before that).

Again, i will always disagree with the word 'happiness'. 'Happiness' is theoretically possibe, but what is it, less neg feeling than positive? the REAL question is contentment. I digress...

The best thing about my job is my independence. DA's, at least around here, don't have that luxury. They don't have much discretion, and their decisions are 2nd guessed by their superiors who always want to get re-elected. Nobody second guesses my decisions are interferes in my cases-i don't have to answer to any political hack.

Secondly, PDs do work harder than DA's-think about it, THE COPS DO ALL THE WORK FOR THE DA!!! By the time trial comes around, all they do is get the cops up there to regurgitate the report.

PD"s acutally have think abou the case, poke holes in the State's story, and do their own investigation.

I won't answer the happiness question, because that is a wrong way to think. But am I content as a PD-YES

Angie
Alex, I think the hiring situation is pretty good from what I can tell. Angie, I don't disagree. I just find it fascinating to see how people get to this blog.
Ben, I am happy. Sure, sometimes I am lonely. Alaska is a big beautiful state, without a lot of women. However, I LOVE my job. There is nothing more important than standing up for people who can not stand up for themselves. It is its own reward. And sometimes, we do win. Yes it is very rare. And often, the judges bend over backwards to uphold the police and Da's illegal acts. But that is why we are there. Also, the loneliness has allowed me to find myself for the first time and realize how unhappy I was before I came here. So, if I am not happy, I am at least more happy than I was before.
Dan said…
fucking PDs and their constant badmouthing of DAs. get off your ass and try our job for once. Sometimes I can't believe I have so many PDs as good friends. the utter insanity that rolls through your collective minds is breathtaking in its absurdity.
Dan said…
as for happiness, let me quote the late John Lennon, "Happiness is a warm gun". I'll also add a beer, the woman you love (or man if that's your cup of tea), the family dog, and a good day's honest wages.
Hmm, let's see:

DAs
1. get paid more (nationally)
2. have the entire arm of state, city, borough and sometimes federal law enforcement at their disposal investigating their cases. Oh yeah, and DA investigators as well.
3. have discretion to get rid of cases they don't like.
4. are loved by judges, who are more often than not, law n' order types, loved by court staff, and loved by conservatives who want to jail vice and liberals who want to jail men who yell at their wives.

PDs
1. Get paid substantially less, nationally.
2. typically have ONE investigator between four attorneys (right now, I have none). Just try to ask a cop to follow up on their investigation. See what happens, PD.
3. Take the cases that are assigned to them, no matter how bad the case/client may be.
4. Are hated by judges, juries, the press, the contituency, politicians, DAs, court staff, and, most importantly, their own clients who think they're gonna get dump trucked.

POOR LITTLE DA. Fucking crybaby.
Anonymous said…
I found your blog by googling "life in alaska blog". It's the best one I found.
Dan said…
I don't care about "nationally" I speak only of what I know - Alaska - where I've practice most of my career.

I am paid the SAME AS BEN. And that is EXACTLY how it should be. Fuck the rest of the USA and its backassward-ness.

DA investigator??? I've worked in several states; NONE OF THESE DA's offices had investigators.

Blaming the DA for having police supporting DAs is fucking ridiculous. Your GUILTY client wouldn't have been caught, in fact NO CRIMES would be solved or even looked into without law enforcement. Northern PD, you've NEVER called a police department and asked for follow-up investigation. It is WORSE THAN GOING TO THE DENTIST. It is damn near impossible. "I wrote my report, I've moved on to the next dirtbag. It's your problem now." That's the response a DA will get.

Get rid of cases? You live in a world of naivety. While in Alaska I have autonomy to rid myself of shitty cases, I ALSO DON'T SCREEN-IN/ACCEPT FOR PROSECUTION almost as many cases as I accept. Why? Because I know how to look at a case and realize that I can't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. Read the rules of professional conduct Northern PD. See the extra rule? 3.8? It applies to me and not you. In other jurisdictions, with the AWFUL position of an ELECTED DA it's almost unbearably impossible to decline/dismiss a case. All those fucking whiny voters clamoring for "justice"? Puh-lease.

Loved by judges? Hardly. Move to a big city. Learn to realize that judges DON'T FUCKING CARE WHO YOU ARE.

Conservatives? Fuck them.

Liberals? Fuck them too.

People are stupid. Americans are, as a general rule, little retarded sheep waiting to be fleeced.

You have your job, Northern PD. I have mine. Both jobs suck equally. And you and I can whine all day about it and guess what? NO ONE FUCKING CARES.

So crack a beer (or smoke a bowl if you're in Fairbanks and living in a cabin in Goldstream or Ester), sit back, relax. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.
Geez...easy now everyone. I wasn't trying to unduly slam DA's Dan, although I certainly don't mind doing that. I was simply trying to answer the question "are public defender's happy"? I have no doubt that DA's also feel like worker drones from time to time but I also think the job of a DA is easier. Clearly, I recognize the need for DA's. Without them, I would not have a job. Dan would it make you feel better if I wrote a post about hard it must be to be a DA ;)
josh said…
In Miami, we make more than the DA's, not by much, but it's the thought that counts
I said "nationally" because this is a blog read nationally and most people reading this will nod their collective heads about the lack of financial parity between the DA and PD.

As for Alaska, while pay scales are identical, promotions are not, as you well fucking know.

As for judges, they LOVE DAs. Love em to death. In fact, it is a routine thing to watch them bend over backwards to tickle your ball sack. It's a disgusting thing to see when you all giggle together and talk about "what are WE going to do about this defendant, Mr. DA?". THANK GOD Alaska has an independent appellate system that sometimes provides us with redress. Sometimes. While it lasts.

As for your ability to get rid of shitty cases...that's exactly my point. You can do it. We can't. Ergo your job easier.

DA investigators: They are called "paralegals" in your state. They are the morons who don't do fuck all except provide biased and leading investigation to your cases. And if Fairbanks had them, you have them. I currently live in a town of 20,000 people. The DAs office has 4 investigators. You're full of shit on that one and you know it.

Police: I've seen DAs reign police in by DISMISSING THE CASES IF THEY'RE NOT ADEQUATELY INVESTIGATED. Why? Because YOU can. Making things easier for you.

I will agree with you that people are fucknuts...that's an understatement. But to compare the underresourced PDs office with the resources commanded by the DA is laughable.

And that will be a little 'shine, thanks.
A little shine? No. I have a special treat for you.
Anonymous said…
LOL -- I like Dan. I think there is a public defender wrapped up in there somewhere. God that was funny. Patrick
Anonymous said…
And the sheep continue to follow...
When I was law school, I interned at the prosecutor’s office in Oho. When I came in, the assistant prosecutor went on vacation. I did the all of the misdemeanor work in the county. I threw out cases. I only tried two to jury verdicts. (One guilty, one not, and the not guilty I lost due to my inexperience.) The Das job is much, much easier. Judges, up here in Alaska in particular, LOVE the DAs and cops, and bend over backwards to let then get away with BREAKING THE LAW. It is ridiculous. Our judges have no backbone or understanding of the law. Our DAs don’t screen cases. Period. The cops file stuff directly, and then the DAs try to make the case stick. NO MATTER WHAT. Dan may be an honorable and good DA, I never met him and I believe he practices in “The Big City,” not in the bush with us. Our DAs claim that they can’t dismiss or reduce a sex assault charged by a cop, without approval of someone up the ladder in the attorney general’s office. That is unethical. If the DA handling the case thinks that Joe Cop is wrong and the case should not be a sex assault, he should dismiss it o reduce it to a non-sex offense. To compromise his professional ethics and subjugating himself to someone else is total bullshit and unethical. However, they claim that is the rules they live by. If that is true, then they are giving up the ethic obligations as attorneys to handle cases professionally and only pursue legitimate cases. Also, they do not reduce low blow, first offense, DUIs. They argue, with a straight face, that the cops should be allowed to make stops without justification, to protect the people from the dangers of a drunk driver. Rather than protecting the Constitutional Rights of the Citizens. Even if there is a good stop, low blow, first offense DUIs should be reduced to reckless operation as a matter of course. The draconian nature of the first offense DUI laws in Alaska make criminals out of ordinary people who make a mistake, and then make it nearly impossible for the defendant to ever get his driver’s license back. And there are no buses in most cities in Alaska. To get work privileges back, the defendant needs to sign up for ASAP, which takes several weeks to a month, and costs $200, then they need an assessment, which is another two to three months wait, and costs another $200, then they begin “treatment.” At this point, they can, in theory, get a letter from ASAP allowing them to go to the DMV a get work privileges, which are supposedly available after thirty days. But you get can’t your assessment for about three months, and you can’t get your work privileges without the assessment. Both of which costs money. (And don’t get me started about ASAP not being able to turn you away if your can’t afford to pay. They will not write the “letter” without being paid in full.) And my public defender clients are, by definition, indigent. To make things worse, the defendants now need to have an ignition interlock device installed on their car for a year! Even on the first offense. $215 to install, another $100 a month. Plus SR 22 insurance. They have no money! They can’t afford all of this. But the DAs have the authority to cut that short and reduce .08, .09 and .1o down to reckless operation and avoid all the draconian bullshit. But they don’t. Then they prosecute the poor smucks for driving to work without a license, which they can’t get because they can’t afford it. Which suspends they license longer and require more reinstatement fees. I’m going to stop, because I’m ranting by now, but suffice it to say that our DAs are not screening cases, are not exercising the judgment to dismiss cases appropriately and all DAs have a MUCH easier job than PDs do. But most do not take the job of upholding the Constitution and keeping the cops in line seriously.

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