I take an appointed criminal case in federal court from time to time. I don’t need the cases (my time is worth much more than the $94-an-hour that the federal courts pay under the CJA), but I see indigent defense as a public service. As a consequence, I don’t have any problem with my appointed clients hiring counsel.
But why would a federal accused who is getting a full-time criminal trial lawyer for free spend money to hire a civil lawyer dabbling in criminal law? Could it be because the inexperienced civil lawyer has promised to get the client out on bond within three or four weeks of his hiring?
I don’t mind my appointed clients hiring lawyers, but I do mind lawyers who deceive clients to get cases. The lawyer who promises to get the accused in a federal cocaine conspiracy case out on conditions of release is unethical and a liar.
In a federal drug conspiracy case with a possible sentence over ten years, there is a presumption that the accused is a flight risk and danger to the community, and not eligible for release on conditions. Sometimes that presumption can be overcome with rebutting evidence. But there is no combination of facts that a lawyer could have learned in a couple of conversations with the accused that would lead him to the secure conclusion that the accused would be released on conditions.
What happens next? My bet is that once the lawyer has been paid and four weeks have passed and the client is still incarcerated, the lawyer will “discover” some reason that the accused cannot get out on bond.
At some point this has to stop being my problem. That point is . . . now.