Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Problems with criminal justice system

There is a lot of literature out there criticizing our criminal justice system for, among other things, not doing enough to protect the right to counsel and because some judges don't seem to care about the quality of representation provided bylawyers appointed to represent indigent defendants.

In a very ironic twist, today, the ABA Journal.com is reporting that Texas, the same state that gave us the famous sleeping lawyer case and the judge who closed the courthouse to prevent a last minute capital case appeal, should be criticized for rewarding the work of appointed capital case appellate lawyers.

Wait; that does not make sense, does it? We criticize the system because it does not reward the lawyers for their work, and now we are criticizing it because it does?

The problem is that what the article criticizes is the lack of oversight over the quality of representation. Lawyers are getting paid regardless of whether they do the work and, apparently, some are just not doing the work at all.

The story comes from the Houston Chronicle, which is reporting that Texas lawyers who have repeatedly missed filing deadlines in death-row appeals are not only being paid for their work but are allowed to represent inmates in other capital cases. The article mentions a few lawyers by name and states that only one of the lawyers the newspaper found to have repeatedly missed death row deadlines has faced fines or been forced to forgo fees by judges.

For more details about which lawyers reportedly have filed late and the excuses they offered for their tardiness, read the full article in the Chronicle.

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