How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

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andythefir
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby andythefir » Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:40 pm

I have now been on the interviewer side of the table multiple times, and it has really changed my perspective on the whole process. I am a DA in a 50k person town in rural New Mexico. Some advice:

(1) Grades/law review/journal/moot court: in an interview all of these things collapse into one. The office is basically after whether you can eventually figure out the job. Spoiler: a rural DA/PD does basically no legal work. Opposing counsel and the judge have a rough idea of PC/reasonable suspicion, and you basically argue facts, facts, and nothing but the facts. Every single motion I've seen from opposing counsel has either been canned or doesn't cite any law ("my client wants X suppressed/my client's statement wasn't voluntary" without any cites to anything). You don't need to be law review and #1 in your class to do this job. Will it help? Absolutely, and I'm very partial to traditionally prestigious markers on a resume. But if you come across like a smart person you will be fine with awful grades/no journal/no moot court.

(2) Criminal experience: this is a game-changer. Unlike the other abstract law school stuff, this can make an application. Again, we're looking for whether you can show up and do the job with minimal training. I actually prefer former PDs-you know what motivates opposing counsel, you're more likely to get along with PDs, you've seen the tricks from the other side, etc. But consider it a box you should try really hard to check.

(3) Go west and rural: New Mexico's 5th Judicial District has 3 jobs you can walk into if you have any state's bar card. I don't doubt Wyoming, the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, et all are the same. The big cities can be brutal, but there are jobs in the far out counties. The Vail of Tears routine is true for firms and big cities, but awful applicants get jobs out here all the time. If you're willing to work in rural criminal law you will never be unemployed.

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anon sequitur
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby anon sequitur » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:18 pm

andythefir, thanks for sharing, I've seen you mention rural NM jobs before and it's interesting to think about, though I live on the other side of the country and know nobody in that part of the country. I've driven through much of NM on road trips though, and loved to visit. If it's not too personal, mind sharing what the salary, COL, work load, opportunities for advance are like out there? Do people move to different parts of the state? I imagine Santa Fe and ABQ are hard to crack.

ilovetheatre
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby ilovetheatre » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:26 pm

andythefir wrote:(3) Go west and rural: New Mexico's 5th Judicial District has 3 jobs you can walk into if you have any state's bar card. I don't doubt Wyoming, the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, et all are the same. The big cities can be brutal, but there are jobs in the far out counties. The Vail of Tears routine is true for firms and big cities, but awful applicants get jobs out here all the time. If you're willing to work in rural criminal law you will never be unemployed.

One of my friends has been looking for a PD or DA job in NM and has only found listings for the Public Defender. Where would she find the openings you mentioned? Is she supposed to call up the various offices?

andythefir
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby andythefir » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:44 pm

anon sequitur wrote:andythefir, thanks for sharing, I've seen you mention rural NM jobs before and it's interesting to think about, though I live on the other side of the country and know nobody in that part of the country. I've driven through much of NM on road trips though, and loved to visit. If it's not too personal, mind sharing what the salary, COL, work load, opportunities for advance are like out there? Do people move to different parts of the state? I imagine Santa Fe and ABQ are hard to crack.


I make $50k pre-tax, post-tax/benefits/retirement (defined benefit!) I keep more like $35-40. For me it's perfect because I max out my school's LRAP. I crunched the numbers, and I keep more money than if I had stayed at the firm where I was a 2L summer.

As for the COL, the southeast is actually not as cheap as you'd think for housing because there's a massive oil boom right now (oil guys also tend to like their meth and hookers, so while I pay more in rent, I gain job security). An ok 2 bedroom house to rent will be around $700. With a roommate it's not bad at all.

Opportunities for advancement: I've done 50 trials in my first 8 months. I was staffed on a 1st degree murder in my first 6 months. Those kinds of numbers open doors. As for moving up within the office, I think the chief deputy makes around $90 with a state car. He's only been here 4 years. Ultimately, especially if you're not from anywhere near here, your best bet is to stay for 2-3 years, get an insane number of trials and experience, then bolt back to where you want to be.

Moving around the state: you can move all around the state's DA/PD offices at will, with the exception of ABQ or Santa Fe right off the bat. You wouldn't want to work in ABQ though (terrible pay, no trials, horrific working environment). New Mexico is a poor and uneducated state. UNM sucks all the law students into ABQ and they never go back to the distant corners where they're from. I banged my head against the clerkship/firm/big city DA thing for all of law school. My last semester I applied to 4 rural DA offices and got 3 offers, had to turn down the 4th interview because I already accepted a spot.

andythefir
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby andythefir » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:44 pm

ilovetheatre wrote:
andythefir wrote:(3) Go west and rural: New Mexico's 5th Judicial District has 3 jobs you can walk into if you have any state's bar card. I don't doubt Wyoming, the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, et all are the same. The big cities can be brutal, but there are jobs in the far out counties. The Vail of Tears routine is true for firms and big cities, but awful applicants get jobs out here all the time. If you're willing to work in rural criminal law you will never be unemployed.

One of my friends has been looking for a PD or DA job in NM and has only found listings for the Public Defender. Where would she find the openings you mentioned? Is she supposed to call up the various offices?


The back of the bar bulletin will have the ads for these spots.

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anon sequitur
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby anon sequitur » Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:37 pm

very much appreciated andythefir

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 12, 2015 6:45 am

This applies to the Maricopa County Public Defender's Office (Phoenix, Arizona)

The traditional hiring path is similar to what has been discussed. First, apply to extern/intern at the office. Then, if you manage to impress your supervisor and stand out, you can apply for a paid law clerk position (can work as a law clerk either during 3L year or post-bar exam but before results are published or before you become licensed). Then, upon licensing, almost every person who got hired as a law clerk immediately gets an offer to become an attorney. Thus, many people say that acquiring the law clerk position is the key.

As for getting in as an intern or as an extern, I have heard that they really like previous criminal defense experience, as well as volunteer experience. I believe that they look for those things at most PD offices around the country. When I applied to extern, I struck out on my third and fourth semesters. However, I got an offer to extern on my fifth semester, after I'd worked as a law clerk for a fairly reputable private defense firm in town and after I had interned at the ACLU.

Finally, I've heard that the Maricopa County PD's office is one of the best PD offices in the country. They employ a little over 200 attorneys and about 200 additional staff members (mitigation specialists, paralegals, private investigators, etc.). In other words, they are not overworked. As far as pay, I believe that they start recent graduates around 61K and, after the first year, they pay 7k per year of your students loans. Best of luck to everyone!

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Aug 19, 2015 9:39 pm

Lateral opportunities to civil etc. for PD's/DA's? Lateral opportunities from one side to the other after a few years experience? Anonymous because a few people know me on here and I don't want them to know that I'm curious about jumping ship. Also, I feel like it would be helpful for people considering this path to know what could be on the other end of it.

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FlanAl
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby FlanAl » Sun Sep 20, 2015 8:59 pm

Guess I will bump this to see what people's thoughts were on the John Oliver piece the other week. I'd love to hear both PD and prosecutor's take on it.

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Tanicius
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Mon Sep 21, 2015 8:37 am

FlanAl wrote:Guess I will bump this to see what people's thoughts were on the John Oliver piece the other week. I'd love to hear both PD and prosecutor's take on it.


Some PDs are upset and think he was laying the blame at their feet instead of at the system. I don't think Oliver was trying to blame PDs, though I do imagine it could give some defendants pause when they have a choice of whether to represent themselves or get a PD on misdemeanor-level crimes after they've seen that piece. I hope that doesn't happen. All in all, I would have liked him to give more nuance to the issue and explain a little more clearly *why* PDs so often "meet 'em and plead 'em," both from the systemic and strategic angles... but I get he only had 15 minutes. The publicity he drew to the cause was more important than getting super detailed. If folks want details, that's what the Gideon's Army documentary is for.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:46 pm

2L here looking to do PD work after graduation. I have no preivous work experience in criminal defense (or crim litigation in general) and I'm faced with the following decision to make for next spring semester: I have offers at both a state PD office and a Federal PD office. Both are in the same location. Anyone have any advice as to which one to take? Should I go for the state PD and then try to get the fed PD for the summer? Or the other way around? Thank you in advance!

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 21, 2015 4:25 pm

Anonymous User wrote:2L here looking to do PD work after graduation. I have no preivous work experience in criminal defense (or crim litigation in general) and I'm faced with the following decision to make for next spring semester: I have offers at both a state PD office and a Federal PD office. Both are in the same location. Anyone have any advice as to which one to take? Should I go for the state PD and then try to get the fed PD for the summer? Or the other way around? Thank you in advance!


My understanding of Federal PD hiring is that almost no office gives offers to interns/recent graduates- though FD of San Diego might be one of the exceptions. So ultimately what I'm trying to say is that you should intern at a place that maximizes your change of getting a job.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby criminaltheory » Mon Sep 21, 2015 4:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:2L here looking to do PD work after graduation. I have no preivous work experience in criminal defense (or crim litigation in general) and I'm faced with the following decision to make for next spring semester: I have offers at both a state PD office and a Federal PD office. Both are in the same location. Anyone have any advice as to which one to take? Should I go for the state PD and then try to get the fed PD for the summer? Or the other way around? Thank you in advance!


How competitive is either office? It'd be great to get both offices on your resume, so if the federal defender is typically more selective or has less openings, getting in there might be the priority. I know our local state PD will basically take anyone with a pulse.

What are the student practice rules in your state like? If you practice in a state & PD office that will let you get full-on trial experience as a second-semester 2L or 3L, working in that office over consistent multiple semesters will build your trust among the attorneys and get you some great trial experiences. Breaking up the PD [PD spring, FD summer, PD fall/etc] might get in the way of some of those relationships (but won't ruin your chances). The FD is usually research & discovery, which is great and interesting work but (IMO) not as worthwhile as doing trial work as much as possible.

All that is to say, I'd do the FD in the spring semester, and then do PD in the summer and all of 3L year if you're getting hands-on experience. For others considering this question, I'd actually do the FD (or other research & discovery based criminal/civil rights work) as early as possible (1L summer/2L fall) before eligibility for a student license, and then go to the PD when the student license kicks in.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 21, 2015 5:04 pm

criminaltheory wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:2L here looking to do PD work after graduation. I have no preivous work experience in criminal defense (or crim litigation in general) and I'm faced with the following decision to make for next spring semester: I have offers at both a state PD office and a Federal PD office. Both are in the same location. Anyone have any advice as to which one to take? Should I go for the state PD and then try to get the fed PD for the summer? Or the other way around? Thank you in advance!


How competitive is either office? It'd be great to get both offices on your resume, so if the federal defender is typically more selective or has less openings, getting in there might be the priority. I know our local state PD will basically take anyone with a pulse.

What are the student practice rules in your state like? If you practice in a state & PD office that will let you get full-on trial experience as a second-semester 2L or 3L, working in that office over consistent multiple semesters will build your trust among the attorneys and get you some great trial experiences. Breaking up the PD [PD spring, FD summer, PD fall/etc] might get in the way of some of those relationships (but won't ruin your chances). The FD is usually research & discovery, which is great and interesting work but (IMO) not as worthwhile as doing trial work as much as possible.

All that is to say, I'd do the FD in the spring semester, and then do PD in the summer and all of 3L year if you're getting hands-on experience. For others considering this question, I'd actually do the FD (or other research & discovery based criminal/civil rights work) as early as possible (1L summer/2L fall) before eligibility for a student license, and then go to the PD when the student license kicks in.


I honestly have no idea how competitive either office is. The city is Alexandria, VA. I was leaning towards doing the FB in the spring and PD in the summer so I'm happy that someone else things that it makes sense. Thanks for your advice!

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby pdwannabe » Mon Sep 21, 2015 6:50 pm

does anyone know if San Francisco PD hires straight out of law school? and if so, how to apply? on their site i only see how to apply to be an investigator, paralegal, social worker, or support staff but can't see where to apply to be an attorney. does anyone have more information about this?

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby anon sequitur » Mon Sep 21, 2015 10:40 pm

pdwannabe wrote:does anyone know if San Francisco PD hires straight out of law school? and if so, how to apply? on their site i only see how to apply to be an investigator, paralegal, social worker, or support staff but can't see where to apply to be an attorney. does anyone have more information about this?


My understanding is that they don't really hire out of law school, except for some sort of fellowship program they have with Stanford.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby andythefir » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:31 pm

FlanAl wrote:Guess I will bump this to see what people's thoughts were on the John Oliver piece the other week. I'd love to hear both PD and prosecutor's take on it.


Honestly, if you attached a GoPro to the PDs I work with, you'd see them working <30 hours/week. It's blindingly obvious they never meet their client outside of an active docket call, I can tell the clients never get the pleas I send, and I've never seen a motion longer than 3 pages. One PD doesn't work Mondays, another doesn't work Fridays. Not a flex time, stay late other day arrangement: they just don't work on those days.

I was a PD intern, and I know some of those folks fight the good fight day in and day out. I've also known prosecutors to be lazy, self-obsessed, and willing to ruin a person's life for their own political gain. At the end of the day, as this thread's title implies, DA and PD are 2 sides of the same coin. Some are lazy and just collecting a check, but most really do care about their work and their role in their work.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:51 pm

Oliver pointed out that in CA (forget which county) public defenders are doing at least 1k felonies per year, while the state guidelines say max caseload should be 150. There is no time for legal research or investigation. Even if you plead out every single case that is still a tremendous amount of work. How do those PD's even keep track of the names of their clients?

I think the states should follow the federal system where the PD's get paid the same as the prosecutors and have similar caseloads. But that would require spending money on people that can't/don't vote. So I'm not optimistic. Unlike the federal gov't, each state must balance its budget. Who will protest cutting indigent defense? You get all the justice you can afford. :D

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Tanicius
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Tue Sep 22, 2015 12:28 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Oliver pointed out that in CA (forget which county) public defenders are doing at least 1k felonies per year, while the state guidelines say max caseload should be 150. There is no time for legal research or investigation. Even if you plead out every single case that is still a tremendous amount of work. How do those PD's even keep track of the names of their clients?

I think the states should follow the federal system where the PD's get paid the same as the prosecutors and have similar caseloads. But that would require spending money on people that can't/don't vote. So I'm not optimistic. Unlike the federal gov't, each state must balance its budget. Who will protest cutting indigent defense? You get all the justice you can afford. :D


The situation in Fresno does not apply to many other PD offices in California. Fresno is ultra-fucked in a way that most places outside the deep South are not. They have practically no budget for court systems at all. Two years ago they closed every single courthouse in the Fresno metro area that was not in downtown -- i.e., they literally cut 80% of the criminal justice budget for Fresno. That's quite unusual for California and does not reflect the situation in other metro areas of the state.

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FlanAl
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby FlanAl » Tue Sep 22, 2015 9:49 pm

I felt as let down by that as by Gideon's Army. Obviously every office could use more funding and more resources but HBO could at least give one of the offices a shout out for doing a good job, or if nothing else point out that some places are on the same payscale as the prosecutors. To me it just feels like the take away is that you're better off hiring private counsel. Obviously a lot of private attorneys are great but I don't think its great when people go to great financial strain to hire a Lionel Hutz type and the John Oliver piece seemed to kind of advocate for that.

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anon sequitur
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby anon sequitur » Tue Sep 22, 2015 11:13 pm

Yeah, I didn't think much of the John Oliver piece, and didn't even like Gideon's Army. I guess they're not really aimed at lawyers or people in criminal law, but I think they actually paint too negative a picture, and don't paint with much too broad a brush. I think people realize that what school district you're in makes all the difference in what kind of public school, but they don't really make clear that the city/county/state you live in makes such a huge difference for indigent defendants. Gideon's Army didn't do much to help with that issue.

Also, throwing out stats like seven minutes per case is dumb. An overload of felony cases is pretty serious, but to be honest, for a huge chunk of the kind of misdemeanors that PD's handle, seven minutes is more than enough. There's not much to do for a client who doesn't ever return your calls or come to your office to talk about their case (which is a huge portion of misdemeanor cases). There's not much to do for a client who's been charged with driving on a suspended license. You could pay for the best lawyer in the country, but there's no defense that can get around the fact that the client had a suspended license and was pulled over while driving on a public highway. Cases like these take up a huge portion of most PD's time.

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Tanicius
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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby Tanicius » Wed Sep 23, 2015 2:09 pm

anon sequitur wrote:Yeah, I didn't think much of the John Oliver piece, and didn't even like Gideon's Army. I guess they're not really aimed at lawyers or people in criminal law, but I think they actually paint too negative a picture, and don't paint with much too broad a brush. I think people realize that what school district you're in makes all the difference in what kind of public school, but they don't really make clear that the city/county/state you live in makes such a huge difference for indigent defendants. Gideon's Army didn't do much to help with that issue.

Also, throwing out stats like seven minutes per case is dumb. An overload of felony cases is pretty serious, but to be honest, for a huge chunk of the kind of misdemeanors that PD's handle, seven minutes is more than enough. There's not much to do for a client who doesn't ever return your calls or come to your office to talk about their case (which is a huge portion of misdemeanor cases). There's not much to do for a client who's been charged with driving on a suspended license. You could pay for the best lawyer in the country, but there's no defense that can get around the fact that the client had a suspended license and was pulled over while driving on a public highway. Cases like these take up a huge portion of most PD's time.


This seems like an over-reaction to the Oliver piece. It was, on the whole, very good. It lacked some nuance, but I did not expect a 15-minute segment to have the kind of nuance that it was missing. It did what it was supposed to do: It drew necessary awareness to a very important, and widespread, problem. Meet 'em and plead 'em happens in every jurisdiction -- I don't care if the majority of the times it happens it's just DAS or disorderly conduct, trespassing, etc. Almost every case has issues that are at least worth exploring, whether it's possible 4th Amendment issues, possible 5th Amendment issues, or if they're in custody, the whole question of bail and whether they're getting fucked with a bad deal just so they can get out of jail.

If we had more time, we'd be giving higher quality advice for future reference to clients. We would be educating them about other options and what they can do to stay out of the system next time something comes up. We can better advise them about consequences of pleas for their driving license, or hell even the cost of their insurance premiums. A lot of that just goes utterly un-explored when you see a guy in jail and plead him to get him out of jail that same day, or when you see a guy at the courthouse for an out-of-custody first appearance and plead him just so you can avoid the angry mob of other clients who got here at 8:30 and want to be out of here by noon.

Even in cases where you have explored the legal issues and conclude they're obviously going to be convicted at trial with no fuss, that still does not mean trial is a bad choice. Most of the time in my jurisdiction, losing at trial for a misdemeanor will still get you a better sentence than the sentence asked for the prosecutor as part of a plea deal. You're sticking it to the prosecutor and making him question how badly he wants to stick to his guns and offer you the shitty deal. It just sucks doing a trial like DAS with no defense because it's a time-suck. Thing is, though, we're supposed to help the client. It's our job. If it's a time-suck to help them get a slightly better deal on a stupid case, well... we should still do the trial. But clients don't pick the trial when you don't have time to tell them all those pros-and-cons. All they know is that you are clearly exhausted walking back and forth talking to 5 people in the same courtroom in the last two hours, and they see that and think there's no way in hell this guy will give my case the time of day necessary to help me if I do in fact pick the trial.

Macro-level wise, pleading clients too fast, even for misdemeanors or petty misdemeanors with little to no consequence, is corrosive to the attorney-client relationship. It teaches defendants that their lawyer doesn't give a shit about them, so they are less likely to trust their lawyer next time they get in trouble. They tell all their friends and family that public defenders are lazy and shitty, and then those friends and family members are in court calling us public pretenders. It's not our fault, at least most of the time, and this problem would definitely be curbed if we had an hour to devote to every case. Taking just 7 minutes is insufficient for virtually every kind of case imaginable, even when they're guilty, and even when they want to plead guilty. It takes more than 7 minutes just to adequately explain the impact their silly little DAS misdemeanor will and could have on their life, and that's to say nothing of explaining any kind of supervised probation they may have to complete. Remember, a lot of the people we see are not high on the intelligence scale. They need us to sit down with them and talk at an elementary school level to make sure they understand what we're doing. For the majority of clients, that doesn't happen, and the entire system is worse off for it.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby anon sequitur » Thu Sep 24, 2015 9:01 pm

Tanicius wrote:This seems like an over-reaction to the Oliver piece.


Most likely, yeah. Something about the recent wave of PD reportage just rubs me the wrong way.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Sep 24, 2015 10:56 pm

Tanicius wrote:Most of the time in my jurisdiction, losing at trial for a misdemeanor will still get you a better sentence than the sentence asked for the prosecutor as part of a plea deal.

I know this is just a tiny part of your post, but this is so weird to me.

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Re: How to be a Prosecution/PD Gunner?

Postby anon sequitur » Thu Sep 24, 2015 11:07 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
Tanicius wrote:Most of the time in my jurisdiction, losing at trial for a misdemeanor will still get you a better sentence than the sentence asked for the prosecutor as part of a plea deal.

I know this is just a tiny part of your post, but this is so weird to me.


Yeah, super bizarre. Not my experience in the three jurisdictions I've appeared in. Not that weirder things don't go on.




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