DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

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Anonymous Questioner

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DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

Postby Anonymous Questioner » Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:43 pm

To any DAs or PDs out there: do the shortcomings of our criminal justice system (lack of PD funding, massive amounts of plea deals, lack of adequate representation due to excessive caseloads, etc.) ever get to you? I could definitely see myself going into criminal law, because I'm passionate about providing poor people with representation as well as seeking justice for victims of violent crime. For background, I've considered trying to prosecute crimes against women and children, or aiming for a capital defense attorney position. But I've also read a lot about the need for criminal justice reform, and I'm worried that I'd feel like I'd wake up one day feeling like I'm contributing to injustice. Has anyone else experienced this?

Civilservant

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Re: DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

Postby Civilservant » Wed Feb 21, 2018 9:13 pm

What's the alternative? Doing a little good is a lot better than waxing poetic about how the whole thing stinks. If anything, it should motivate you to do good work. The low pay will probably grind on you more than the systemic issues.

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Re: DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

Postby objctnyrhnr » Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:10 pm

Anonymous Questioner wrote:To any DAs or PDs out there: do the shortcomings of our criminal justice system (lack of PD funding, massive amounts of plea deals, lack of adequate representation due to excessive caseloads, etc.) ever get to you? I could definitely see myself going into criminal law, because I'm passionate about providing poor people with representation as well as seeking justice for victims of violent crime. For background, I've considered trying to prosecute crimes against women and children, or aiming for a capital defense attorney position. But I've also read a lot about the need for criminal justice reform, and I'm worried that I'd feel like I'd wake up one day feeling like I'm contributing to injustice. Has anyone else experienced this?


As an ADA, Defense Attorney games and unwarranted judicial leniency both get to me, but that just motivates me to work harder.

jd20132013

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Re: DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

Postby jd20132013 » Thu Feb 22, 2018 12:21 am

objctnyrhnr wrote:
Anonymous Questioner wrote:To any DAs or PDs out there: do the shortcomings of our criminal justice system (lack of PD funding, massive amounts of plea deals, lack of adequate representation due to excessive caseloads, etc.) ever get to you? I could definitely see myself going into criminal law, because I'm passionate about providing poor people with representation as well as seeking justice for victims of violent crime. For background, I've considered trying to prosecute crimes against women and children, or aiming for a capital defense attorney position. But I've also read a lot about the need for criminal justice reform, and I'm worried that I'd feel like I'd wake up one day feeling like I'm contributing to injustice. Has anyone else experienced this?


As an ADA, Defense Attorney games and unwarranted judicial leniency both get to me, but that just motivates me to work harder.

nice

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Re: DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:48 pm

Anonymous Questioner wrote:To any DAs or PDs out there: do the shortcomings of our criminal justice system (lack of PD funding, massive amounts of plea deals, lack of adequate representation due to excessive caseloads, etc.) ever get to you? I could definitely see myself going into criminal law, because I'm passionate about providing poor people with representation as well as seeking justice for victims of violent crime. For background, I've considered trying to prosecute crimes against women and children, or aiming for a capital defense attorney position. But I've also read a lot about the need for criminal justice reform, and I'm worried that I'd feel like I'd wake up one day feeling like I'm contributing to injustice. Has anyone else experienced this?


First, just know that whatever side you end up on, you aren't going to be able to do your 'dream position' (crimes against women, or capital defense) right away. It's going to take years of prosecuting and/or defending cases that you don't agree with. I don't know how fast it takes on the DA side to move into the work you want to do but I do know people have gone into it because they want to 'change the system from the inside' and it takes 10+ years of prosecuting poor people to get to a position where you have discretion over what to prosecute. And for capital defense, similarly, it is going to take 10+ years of practice before you get to capital cases. And you will start with bullshit DUI misdemeanors, simple assault, etc and move up from there. BOTH SIDES generally start out at the misdemeanor level. If those are the ONLY things you want to do, then this is not going to work well for you.

I'm not a PD yet but I will be next year. I'm not worried about suddenly waking up one day feeling like I'm contributing to injustice. For one, if I do feel that way, there will be a ton of other things I can do w/ a boatload of litigation experience under my belt. I don't necessarily see myself being a PD forever, and I have met PDs who have been practicing for 20+ years who are incredibly jaded and cynical and I kind of want to get out before that becomes me anyway. But I've also come to terms with the fact that, yes, inevitably you will be contributing to injustice. The system needs to change. But that is a multi-generational process and in the interim there are people in jail NOW who need your help. They don't have time to wait for public opinion to shift and the legislature to act. And only by working in the system will you get an actual understanding of what, exactly, needs to change.

Maybe I'm not qualified to give this opinion because I'm not practicing yet, idk. But I wouldn't worry about how you may feel in 10 years or whatever. Your feelings about what you do will obviously shift over time and you can always do something else later.

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Re: DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:55 pm

First, just know that whatever side you end up on, you aren't going to be able to do your 'dream position' (crimes against women, or capital defense) right away. It's going to take years of prosecuting and/or defending cases that you don't agree with. I don't know how fast it takes on the DA side to move into the work you want to do but I do know people have gone into it because they want to 'change the system from the inside' and it takes 10+ years of prosecuting poor people to get to a position where you have discretion over what to prosecute. And for capital defense, similarly, it is going to take 10+ years of practice before you get to capital cases. And you will start with bullshit DUI misdemeanors, simple assault, etc and move up from there. BOTH SIDES generally start out at the misdemeanor level. If those are the ONLY things you want to do, then this is not going to work well for you.


Speaking from personal experience, this is not correct for capital postconviction work. There are specialized appellate and habeas defenders who hire directly out of law school. Their hires are usually people who have focused primarily on death penalty from 1L summer forward, if not sooner. However, this is generally correct for people who want to do criminal trial work, including capital trial defense.

andythefir

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Re: DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

Postby andythefir » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:03 pm

objctnyrhnr wrote:
Anonymous Questioner wrote:To any DAs or PDs out there: do the shortcomings of our criminal justice system (lack of PD funding, massive amounts of plea deals, lack of adequate representation due to excessive caseloads, etc.) ever get to you? I could definitely see myself going into criminal law, because I'm passionate about providing poor people with representation as well as seeking justice for victims of violent crime. For background, I've considered trying to prosecute crimes against women and children, or aiming for a capital defense attorney position. But I've also read a lot about the need for criminal justice reform, and I'm worried that I'd feel like I'd wake up one day feeling like I'm contributing to injustice. Has anyone else experienced this?


As an ADA, Defense Attorney games and unwarranted judicial leniency both get to me, but that just motivates me to work harder.


In every jurisdiction where I’ve prosecuted, the PDs are better paid, carry fewer cases, and have much lower expectations than the prosecutors. In 2 of the jurisdictions 9 am dockets would actually start closer to 1030 because the PDs flatly refused to meet with their clients any other time other than when they absolutely had to be in the same room. I’ve also seen them lie about facts and law to judges. Meanwhile, it’s way easier for a prosecutor to lose their license due to the much higher ethical requirements.

I’ve also worked in a PD office. 95% of the clients agree they’re guilty and you focus on getting the most generous sentence you can. 4% insist they’re innocent, but you either think they’re lying or they’re later proved to be lying. True innocence claims are relatively rare, and prosecutors will listen if you aren’t constantly insisting everyone is innocent and they’re a monster for charging them.

In short, I don’t lose sleep over the justice system. I do lose sleep that under trained and underpaid cops make mistakes and criminals get away with crimes.

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Re: DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Feb 22, 2018 7:26 pm

I'm a PD in a very large city, and yes, I often feel like a cog in a machine. The system is totally fucked and the longer I do this job, the less answers I have on how to fix it. I no longer aspire to effect change. I find satisfaction and fulfillment in the individual cases. That's enough for me now.

Edit: No sure where the above poster practices, but nothing in that resembles anything I've ever seen in a PD's office.

Civilservant

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Re: DA/PD: Feeling like a cog in the wheel of injustice

Postby Civilservant » Thu Feb 22, 2018 8:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Edit: No sure where the above poster practices, but nothing in that resembles anything I've ever seen in a PD's office.


His jurisdiction is True Believer land.



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