Back in the day of newspapers, I always thought it odd when the paper would run a picture of a columnist and then waste space with a headline "XXXXX is not writing today." I guess it saved literally tens of people from spending the bulk of their day looking for XXXXX's column, but to me it seemed like a promotion for what's not in the paper today. Now that I think of it, though, that'd be a fun rag to read.
Oh, by the way, I'm not writing today.
Which is not to mean I'm not working. I am. I'm just not writing until later in the day, probably late tonight (after I help both of my sons load up a truck and move).
This afternoon, however, I am following Lisa Kloster around in Hastings. She's one of the public defenders in Dakota County. I'll be writing a not-live blog documenting her afternoon.
If there's one group in the public that doesn't get a lot of sympathy, it's the person charged with a crime. The Pawlenty administration tried to
tax "fee" (yes, in this state it should be a verb) those who use the system $50 to $200 a few years ago. But the Constitution doesn't grant rights to people only if they pay for it.
Ms. Kloster will be Kerri Miller's guest on Midmorning tomorrow, so over the next 24 hours, we'll be able to give the issue a good going over.
In the meantime, talk among yourselves.
There is an old saying in government - police and fire first. Now we can add public defenders.
In other words, cut into the muscle deep enough to cause a cry of pain but avoid hitting any fat.
The legislature cut the court budget by $4 million. You can bet your bottom dollar few perks for judges were slashed.
I am little miffed that the constitution does not allow for partial payments, if that is what it is. There is a huge difference between "unable to pay" and "unable to pay some".
Total number of prosecutors laid off = ZERO
Total number of probation officers laid off = ZERO
Total number of judges laid off = ZERO
Total number of wildly luxurious judges' staff components (clerks, reporters, bailliffs, support staff) laid off = ZERO
Total number of police officers laid off = ZERO
Total number of county sheriff deputies laid off = ZERO
TOTAL NUMBER OF PUBLIC DEFENDERS LAID OFF = SEVENTY TWO (72)
What lesson does this hold for a person of average intelligence?
There is a fee for those who can. There are also fees tacked on by probation departments.
Ain't moving just the greatest?
As a second-year student at William Mitchell College of Law I'll restate the screamingly obvious: this is bad news. Not only for poor defendants now, also for many future defendants and for society as a whole.
Every year Minnesota law schools generate many hundreds of private and business attorneys. Less than 7% of us (or so) go into government work. With fewer public jobs now, and the lawyers in them swamped, the pool of applicants may begin to shrink.
Even if talent is not so hard to find (yet), retaining it - as caseloads grow and budgets shrink - cannot be so easy. There are only so many cases one lawyer can handle; even the most noble of us needs a life.
What happens to faith in the judicial system when services begin to resemble MASH 4077? It's not the lawyers' fault that cases most must be handled very quickly. It is the Legislature's - meaning our fault. We put those guys in office after all; we fight new taxes.
I have an idea - let's just tell all our neighbors to stop committing crimes and accusing each other. Never mind the economy, personal flaws, circumstances...