April 25, 2017

Nassau County Legal Aid: Making Sense of the Criminal Justice System

For a non-lawyer, it isn’t easy to formulate an informed opinion.

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I decided to write this article because I wanted to document how confusing it can be to read articles written by lawyers about matters that are important to understand. I am not trying in any way to determine who is or is not telling the truth, nor am I siding with anyone in particular, although in the end, there does seem to be one side that is more valid than the other.

There are enough misinformed voters out there such that my aim is to not be one of them. This saga presents the opportunity to illustrate why it isn’t always easy to be informed.

Why I follow Law Blogs

I don’t follow many law blogs but the few that I do provide insight into the legal side of current events. I also believe the law is the underpinning of a civilized society, making it difficult to have an informed opinion on current events without knowing at least the basic level, the legal ramifications.

That said, it is not always easy to make sense of what the lawyers are asserting. Understanding much of the discussion is dependent on having a background in legal academics, or experience as a lawyer and often times both. There are a lot of moving parts making it difficult for the untrained to make sense of it all.

It gets even worse when lawyers themselves cannot agree as to what should or should not be happening in terms of the system of justice. From a non-lawyers perspective, when lawyers don’t agree, it cant look like the issues are merely a matter of opinion, and really not worth the time.

But then you dig a little more.

Criminal Justice Reform

I can’t think of anything that is much more important these days than criminal justice reform. I am, and have never been, a criminal, nor have I ever encountered the criminal justice system in any capacity. 

What I know to be true is that our government has taken us for a ride as it relates to criminal justice and we are paying for it, literally, as a result. All I had to do is follow this dude to know better. (I also highly recommend his book, “Rise of the Warrior Cop”.) 

So when I saw the title of Ken Wombles article over at Mimeis Law, ” FAILURE AT THE NASSAU COUNTY LEGAL AID SOCIETY, PART 1, my curiosity was peaked, so I checked it out.

For those unfortunate few who find themselves at the mercy of the system, justice doesnt always prevail. These things do in fact trouble me, and if what Ken is saying is true, parts of the system need a significant overhaul.

Synopsis

In his first article on the subject, “How Nassau County Courts Screw the Poor”, Ken makes a few assertions about how the indigent defendants are improperly arraigned. In the article, Ken’s target is initially the courts themselves, but he very quickly makes it clear that he is not at all satisfied with how the Nassau County Legal Aid Society functions either.

“The utterly ineffectual management at the Nassau County Legal Aid Society has not taken this lying down (more lounging with a slight, but still quite comfortable, incline). They have created a tool to assist their attorneys with the impossible task of interviewing upwards of 50 clients without any valuable information. A card.” 

Ken goes on to describe what appears to be a hopeless process where the poor are herded through the legal process like animals awaiting slaughter. It is clear from this article, if in fact Ken is accurately depicting what happens, that they are not getting justice.

The second article written by Ken, was titled, “How Nassau County Poor are Forced to Sign Away Their Rights”. The title of the article alone is controversial because it implies that someone is doing something unsavory to people who don’t have the resources to protect themselves against. The title also implies corruption, and given Ken’s assertion in his first article, one could predict that he was planning to light up the mamagement team at his former office.

These types of articles, on top of being informative, can also be entertaining to read because they often result in heated debate. They also present an opportunity for non-lawyers to learn how our legal system actually works and where the cracks exist that prevent some of us from getting the justice we deserve.

More than that, it is accusatory and with every accusation there must exist the accused. In this case, it was not only the Nassau County Legal Aid Society but one of it’s managers, a lawyer named Rick. As a result, and as could be predicted, many lawyers came out in defense of the accused and to condemn Ken for his assertions, stressing that his interest was in the development of his career.

I dont know Ken but I do trust him to some degree. I trust him because of who he is associated with. That may be short sighted from my perspective, but it certainly doesn’t give Ken the license to formulate my opinions for me. 

However, in article 3 and 4, Ken goes a step further in helping me make a decision as to who is or isn’t telling the truth and, as a result, formulate a reasobably informed opinion on the matter.

This series of articles that Ken wrote about the issues facing the poor in Nassau County were compelling. More than that, for me, a non-lawyer, the series presents a perfect opportunity to illustrate how hard it is for a non-lawyer to become informed about the happenings of the American Legal System.

For what it is worth, this is a depiction of my experience reading through the articles and the comments, trying all the way to make sense of it all.

Ken’s Initital Assertions

I already quoted Ken’s opinion on the work ethic of the Nassau County Legal Aid Society’s manangement team from Ken’s first article.

In Ken’s opening paragraph of his second article, he get’s straight the point about his opinion on the grand jury system by saying…

“Let me make something clear. For the most part, I detest grand juries. I have sat through more than enough to know that they are dirty, unfair proceedings, where a prosecutor rules supreme and the only goal is to get that indictment, justice be damned. But even an unfair grand jury is better than no grand jury at all.”

So far, even for a non-lawyer, it is pretty clear that Ken thinks the grand jury process is flawed, the DA’s office in Nassau County is illegally denying rights to indigent defendants and the Nassau County Legal Aid Society is making it easy for the DA to do so.

For the duration of the rest of his article, Ken, in one way or another, makes the following additional assertions:

  • It is against the law to deny defendants the right to a grand jury.
  • It is also a terrible thing for many defendants to not have access to a grand jury for many reasons, one being how the system works in general, particularly related to plea bargaining.
  • Indigent defendants in Nassau County are forced to waive their rights to a grand jury.
  • They are forced because the DA wants to avoid the necessary 6 day time limit to get a grand jury indictment, and ultimately not have to work as hard.
  • The bosses at the public defenders office are complicit because they too are taking the easy way out.
  • The public defenders are trained to deny the rights of defendants, and then forced to comply.
  • The public defenders comply for the same reason the defendants do: they fear a worse outcome.
  • The lawyers who participate in this practice are mostly new lawyers with a lot of school debt who dont know better, and are not in a position to stand their ground.

The result of these flawed policies, according to Ken and his supporters, is that indigent defendants are forced to make a choice between two very unattractive options: take a crappy plea or spend time in jail.

To me though, given the severity of these assertions and accusations, Ken has to prove to me that it is beyond just his opinion that:

  • Indigent defendants are forced to waive their rights via threat
  • The NC public defenders office is a willing participant
  • The threat of not complying is severe, meaning, both the public defender and the defendant will pay a price

To demonstrate the veracity of his assertions, Ken, in article 2, turns to the motive of the parties involved as well as the corroboration by those lawyers who share Ken’s opinion on the matter.

Motive

Ken suggests the motivation of the DA in denying defendants access to their right to a grand jury is that it makes the work of the DA a bit easier. It seems at first glance that Ken is correct because to deny the access to the grand jury, the DA’s job does appear to be extremely less stressful. 

At this point though, given that I am not a lawyer, I have no idea what would motivate a DA. I don’t understand the process of criminal defense for the indigent and even if I did, I can’t say, absent Ken’s assertion, why a DA would or would not be motivated to bypass the grand jury.

All I have is the word of Ken, who by all accounts, seems to be on the ball and telling the truth, but I certainly can’t be sure of that.

But what about the public defenders office? Why would they allow the DA’s desire to do less work affect their ability to mount a vigorous defense of the accused?

“Why would the public defenders go along with this? I was a 9L public defender out in Nassau County 8 or so years ago and I, much like Schaul and others, got hundreds and hundreds of clients to sign away their rights. I knew at the time that this was wrong, but I had no idea how wrong until I got out. Once I got to Brooklyn and experienced the grand jury process as the law intended, I understood the true damage. This was never to benefit the client. This was always to make other people’s jobs easier. And some of those people were my old bosses.”

And this is really where Ken drops his biggest bomb, by essentially accusing the folks who are running the show over at the PD’s office of looking for the easy way out. He even goes so far as to name one of the “bosses”, Rick, and providing, based on his recollection, a conversation he and a colleague once had with Rick.

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This is an important part of this series because generally speaking it set up the resulting debate in such a way that the real important issues were no longer part of the discussion. That Rick is or isn’t a legal super hero was.

To this point we only have Ken’s perspective on the motive of the other parties involved, sprinkled with at least one point of view from a peer of Ken’s, Julie Schaul.

Corroboration 

According to Julie Schaul and two other unnamed sources, the defendant is never given the option of the grand jury. Three sections of Ken’s article represent Julie’s experience and some given in her own words.

“I spoke with Julie Schaul, who currently works as a public defender in Brooklyn. She worked at Nassau County Legal Aid from 2010-2013. Julie, along with two unnamed sources, have confirmed that little has changed since I was there from 2005 to 2007.”

““I was trained to get people to sign the ‘yellow & whites,’” Schaul told me. “I was told by my supervisors that if the client didn’t sign, it would be a disaster for them. But I actually had no idea what would happen to them because I had never been trained about what happened next.”

“Nassau public defenders are trained to make this decision for the client. Schaul said that the few times she was not able to get the client to sign away his rights, a more senior attorney would go back to the jail to make sure the ‘yellow & white’ was signed. The entire goal, at the end of the day, is to get every yellow and white signed. Every time.”

As a reader, I have cause to doubt whether Julie Schaul is a real person or if she ever worked at the Nassau County PD Office because I dont know Julie. For all I know, Julie could be a fictional character used to support Ken’s position, except that she does exist, and according to her Linkedin profile, she did work at the Nassau County Legal Aid Society.

Given that she is a real person, and Ken is quoting her in the article, I think, unless I hear directly from Julie, it is safe to assume that the quotes used by Ken are accurate. The problem, as I was about to see, Rick had his own “Julies” who came into the thread and publicly pronounced their support of Rick.

So far, through the reading of Ken’s article alone, I am leaning more on the side of Ken telling the truth.

Given that Ken set up the reading of his article by suggesting he took a bit of a beating in the comments, the comments seemed to be a logical place to get the other side of the story. In fact, the comments present, at least through article 2 of Ken’s, the most challenge for the non-lawyer reading through these articles.

The Comments – What to Make of Them

Right out of the gate, someone named “David” appears and seemingly makes a few personal attacks on Ken. (I think the personal attack comments were deleted). At this point, the commenter, at least for me, forces the question as to Ken’s motive in writing the article. Note that it is only a question, not a conclusion. Given that I do not know Ken, David or anyone else in this story, David’s opinion of Ken has equal weight to Ken’s opinion of Rick or anything else related to this story.

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Again, I am not drawing any conclusions at this point. I am merely walking you through my mindset as I started to read these comments. Whether my thoughts are valid or not, stupid or not is a separate matter.

Next, someone named Christopher posted a comment, and in the answer, Ken makes another of his assertions, drawing attention to the fact that the public defenders are new lawyers, saddled with debt and seemingly powerless against the forces of corruption.

And then the real debate begins with a comment by someone named Al O’Connor.

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Al’s comment is a real challenge because it forced me, right away, to consider whether Ken was reducing a complex issue to a moral fantasy. At this point I have nothing to inform me as to whether Al is more or less truthful than Ken. 

He then accuses Ken of painting himself as a hero. Not knowing much about Ken and his actual experience, it is hard to separate truth from fact because in reality, to this point, it is possible to perceive Ken as doing just that.

But what got me the most, in terms of Al, is that he asserts that Ken is advocating the support of the cause to compel systemic change at the expense of the lives of the client. This appears to be, morally anyway, in line with Ken’s MO, so it created some confusion for me as it made Al a bit more believable, on the surface. 

The kicker though is that Al has experience working in the system. So, for the casual reader like myself, Al immediately has some credibility. I say “some” because experience doesn’t make someone’s opinion any more or less valid than someone else with the same experience, but it does make Al’s opinion more informed than my own. It also sets up the main dilemma, and that is, could this just be a matter of opinion or is it fact?

This to me is an important consideration because if I were a voter in the Nassau County District, I would want to know fact from opinion in order to make an informed choice as to who the leaders in my community should be.

Anyway, Ken responds to Al in a convincing manner and suggests that he is not concerned that some defendants rights are being compromised, but that ALL the defendants rights are being compromised.

At that point, it seemed that Ken and Al were on the same page, until Al’s next comment which really opened up the flood gates of dissent, and made it nearly impossible to tell who was or was not being honest.

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There are a number of things that stood out to me as it pertains to Al’s comment above, including:

  • Al starts out by suggesting he will never read Ken again. Al is a lawyer with experience who is suggesting Ken, another lawyer with experience, isn’t worth his time. If Ken isn’t worth Al’s time, why would he be worth mine?
  • Al mounts a rigorous defense of Rick by suggesting Ken is flat out wrong about Rick. Once he goes public with his defense of Rick the idea of whether Rick is or is not participating in this malicious behavior becomes subjective.
  • Not only does Al defend Rick, he reveals that Rick is a lawyer with a crap load of experience, unquestionable skill and a mountain of integrity.
  • If Al wouldn’t confront a legal situation without thinking about Rick, does this mean Al is a moron or does it simply mean that Al and Ken view the world through a different lens, both being equally valid?

And that is the problem thus far for me, the non-lawyer who wants to be more informed. Given Al’s commentary, how can anyone in my position draw an accurate conclusion about the state of affairs in the Nassau County PD’s office? 

I realize that neither Ken or Al give a shit about my opinion, but as I stated up front, as a citizen of this country, I view it as my responsibility to be informed. At this point, if I were living in and around Nassau County, I would have absolutely no idea who to believe.

To confuse things even further, Scott Greenfield weighs in to respond to Al.

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Anyone who follows me knows that I have a love hate relationship with Scott. I love him and he hates me. 😉

That said, he is no dope. If he is on a side there is a decent chance that the side he is on is the side of a rational person. However, as with anyone else, Scott doesn’t think for me nor do I take everything he says as truth.

In this comment Scott references the conversation that Ken had with Rick. (See the image above) The problem, at least from my perspective is, I still don’t know if Ken’s recollection of the conversation is accurate. I have absolutely no idea if what Rick said was what Ken heard him say and even if it was, what Rick’s intent was.

I have only Ken’s experience to go on and when you throw in Al’s support of Rick, falling back on the Rick conversation is an implausible way to accurately assess whats going on here.

However, if you read between the lines, or just read the lines, something Scott draws attention to is critical at this point, and may help determine if Al has any credibility. That is, Scott is correct, Ken never said that he didnt discuss the defendants rights with the defendant. All he said was that he refused to force the waiver. This is true and makes it appear that Al is only responding emotionally out of his loyalty to Rick. 

This is relevant because it makes Al appear to be less interested in the facts. Given this exchange, I could easily conclude that Al was not thinking rationally and had some bias as it came to Rick. Though it is also, still, equally possible that Ken had some bias as well, but on the uglier side of Rick.

What’s worse is, whether Scott believes this or not, by questioning Al’s opinion of what the role of the PD is, he suggests, at least to me, that this is more about beliefs than the rule of law or facts. I say this not because it isn’t clear that forcing the waiver of rights is in effect breaking the law, but because it presents Scott’s version of protecting the defendant vs Al’s and while I know Scott is one of the best, I have no reason to believe Al isnt good too. The point here is not to assess whether Scott or Al is correct. It is to address the thought in my head as I was reading the comment. 

And, to cap it all off, while Scott is right in suggesting that Al didn’t assert that the conversation with Rick never happened, it doesn’t mean that Ken’s recollection of the conversation is accurate. In fact, even though Al didn’t state it clearly, he could have easily been thinking “assuming this conversation actually happened”, and then went on to write that Ken was wrong. 

This may have been an argument oversight by Al, but for me, it does nothing to help me decide whether Ken is or isn’t believable. It may have for Scott, because Scott is a lawyer who has experience with these things. I don’t, so my reading comes with it the thoughts of someone who basically, has no clue. 

The objective of Ken’s article though is to assure that at least someone out there who wasn’t aware of these things before is aware of them now. For Ken to be successful, he must be believable to the average Joe, or Vin.

More from the Comments

At this point I am going to highlight via a bulleted list the assertions made that further complicated my ability to draw an informed conclusion with some full comments in between.

  • Ken actually confronts the notion of Rick being inspirational by suggesting anything but. He says “Rick is a terrifying boss”.
  • Ken suggests that Al doesn’t dispute that Rick is overseeing failures in the system. To me, that Rick doesn’t dispute this doesn’t mean he supports the assertion. It also doesn’t clear up the divide line between what different lawyers believe should or shouldn’t be the “way it is”.
  • “David” show up again and implies that Ken is interested in growing his business only. This is not relevant to me because Ken can grow much of a business on indigent defendants. But, this does leave a little room to question Ken’s motives, which, even though Ken seems legit, he is not above having his agenda called into question.
  • Scott Greenfield weighed in again, but this time made a bit more of a compelling case that Ken is believable.which_lawyer_is_telling_the_truth7.pngI dont think David is valid at this point, but his attack on Ken doesn’t speak anything to me as it appears to have done with Scott. However, Scott is suggesting that others have weighed in privately via email, and that is much more compelling in that if it is true, Ken becomes a bit more believable.
  • Catherine Griffin, who is a lawyer who worked for Nassau County weighs in and in full support of Rick. She says Rick is brilliant and fights tirelessly every day. This is in stark contrast to Ken’s assertion that Rick is a tyrant, a lazy boss who doesn’t do anything to help either the defendants or his lawyers. 

Ilana Kopmar

Ilana Kopmar by far presents the best opportunity to question whether or not Ken’s argument is on solid ground merely because she categorically denies that anything he says is true. Her points are:

  • The DA is Nassau County has a history of refusing to plea bargain if the waiver isnt signed.
  • Signing the waiver is the best chance to negotiate a favorable plea bargain.
  • She claims that Ken didnt disclose this to the reader leaving the impression that the rights were being waved for no reason. 
  • It is not true that the waiver, even when signed, cannot be taken back.
  • She asserts that Ken is arguing that public defenders should sacrifice their clients ability to negotiate a favorable plea in the interest of Kens cause.
  • The Legal Aid Society and the lawyers in it have an ethical obligation to serve the needs of their client and she believes waiving the right to a grand jury to get a favorable plea is doing just that.
  • She references that Queens and other counties have similar procedures.
  • In defense of Rick she claims that Rick teaches the lawyers under him to work to get the best for their clients and that this protocol is doing just that.
  • Then she says…“I have worked in county court for over twenty years, and feel fortunate that Rick has been my boss. Rick has dedicated his entire 45 year career to training and supervising his attorneys. He is in court for every trial and hearing, on the phone nights and weekends, zealously and aggressively fighting for the rights of the poor. Your animus towards Rick is telling, and it can only be due to the deterioration of your relationship with him when you broke a commitment you made to him. Your disingenuous attempt to tarnish the reputation of someone who has worked so diligently for so long to protect the rights of indigent defendants says much about you, and nothing about him.”

 Kens response to Ilana and her subsequent response was this…

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Here is my dilemma:

  • While Ilana did reference that other counties were doing these things, it wasnt the only thing she said.
  • In fact, Ken mentioned Rick and quoted an entire conversation. Then, in subsequent comments, indicated that he was a horrific boss.
  • Ken makes a good point that others agree with him, but doesn’t really address, at least in this article, beyond the need for change, what is in the best interest of the defendant IF the DA’s office doesn’t change. In other words, if Ilana is being truthful, until the DA makes a change, is fighting this a system more or less important that working within the current confines of the systems in place?
  • Ilana goes on to lament about other counties doing this and how Ken doesnt care about them. This is not relevant to the argument of whether one county is doing something wrong. It would be the same as saying he is murdering people why cant I?
  • More that that, she does make a seemingly legitimate point in asserting that the numbers of the Nassau County are too small to make meaningful change at the DA’s level. This may in fact be true or it may be irrelevant. The dilemma for me, a non-lawyer, is, if Ilana is telling the truth, is it reasonable for Ken to make a point of asserting that the Nassau County is not willing or too lazy to buck the system?
  • Then, Scott Greenfield weighs in and counters Ilana by suggesting that the numbers are not relevant and that instead of fighting Ken she should be fighting for the rights of her clients. This may be true, but from my vantage point, it is hard to know for sure if this is a fact or if it is just the way SHG sees the world.

Strength in Numbers?

If you are still reading along here, I dont know if you noticed, but both sides, on several occasions have used the argument that “others agree with me so you must be wrong” argument. In fact, if the commenters are real people, the volume alone who support Rick and the PD office would legitimize the argument against Ken if indeed numbers mattered.

By the same token, both Ken and SHG represent that multiple lawyers have reached out privately in full support of Ken’s work suggesting that they want change but fear for their jobs.

So, from the casual reader seats, which group is the more relevant?

Note, the comments go on and on and on with people coming to the aid of Rick and the PD office and both Ken and SHG, among a few others, invalidating their argument by stressing that a change is needed.

None of it does anything to contribute to a more informed opinion by a non-lawyer because both parties are critical of the other side without really addressing each others points one at a time.

The most interesting thing to me is that there are a number of people who are publicly going on record, via Ken’s blog, that what Ken is saying about Rick is completely and utterly false. The defense of Rick is hard to ignore because it is a passionate one. Does this mean that they are all misguided and Ken was the only one, among a few others, to see through the fog created by this dude Rick?

Are we supposed to take either sides argument for or against Rick at face value?

Is Rick really the bad guy in all of this?

If you listen to Ken and SHG, yes, Rick is not good. If you listen to the others, Rick is a superhero who has sacrificed his life in the defense of those in need.

And Still, More Commentary

There were a lot of comments made after Ilana’s. To summarize from the cheap seats, here are the points that were being made:

  • Current staff attorney says Ken is wrong, completely wrong
  • Same staff attorney characterizes Rick as being extremely helpful
  • Same staff attorney says her experience with Rick is one where Rick says that it is absolutely the ethical duty of every attorney to do whatever it takes to defend the client.
  • Ken’s response was to ask her how felony exams or grand juries she has done, but that isn’t all that relevant if one believes the argument that the protocol is largely defined by what the DA’s office will do, not the PD office.
  • Someone named Karen suggests that Ken’s memory is flawed, which, if you know anything about cognitive bias, recall bias is a real thing and often negatively impacts someone’s ability to remember things accurately.
  • A woman named Linda suggests that it is incomprehensible to think anyone would think negatively about Rick. What’s ironic is that Ken thinks it is incomprehensible that anyone would think highly of Rick. Not knowing Rick, who should I believe? Does it matter?

In the End 

Ken, in one of his last comments says what’s really on his mind when he says…

“I feel like we are going around in circles here. I think allowing the DA to hold the grand jury process hostage without a fight is wrong (and not in accordance with the meaning of the law). You all think Rick is great, so grand jury rights can get bent. We could have this debate for years.”

To me, this is extremely relevant because it defines in no uncertain terms that Ken thinks the way things are are wrong. 

Additionally, Ken says…

To summarize, we all seem to agree that if a defendant exercises his right to have his case presented to the grand jury, as the law intends, if he is indicted, the DA will make him pay for his decision. This is a terrible system. It forces defendants to make huge decisions on felony cases without even getting a whiff of discovery. No one is saying that NCLAS created this system. It was clearly the DA. Where we seem to part company ever so slightly is where I am advocating that SOMETHING be done to change this system for the betterment of defendants in Nassau County, and you all seem to be saying that this shitty system should remain and we should do NOTHING.

OK, but this says to me that the problem is the DA’s to solve, not the PD’s. While I appreciate that people should stand and fight for their clients, if the current system says there is a better deal by working within it, why would they fight it?

Absent evidence in the form of numbers and studies, it is hard to wrap my head around the notion that the people who work under Rick and Rick himself are doing anything but working with the dysfunctional limits provided by the DA’s office.

In fact, thus far in this saga, to me, the DA is the problem more than Rick or any of Ricks minions. And Ken seems to agree with me on this, though he doesn’t explicitly suggest he loves Rick. 😉

In Kens defense, he made it clear right up front that he is not condemning the lawyers, however, he certainly did not do any good by Rick. If people came out in defense of Rick that seems normal if those people in fact like Rick.

Perhaps, if Ken cares at all what I think, he could have made his point without bringing Rick into it personally. To me the Rick thing has distracted from the issue at hand and that issue appears, at least to me, to be one not created by Rick.

Kens final comment, and the final comment on the thread is…

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Article Three

To me, Ken makes the most compelling case when he wrote the third article of this series titled, “Failure at the Nassau Legal Aid Society, Part 1.” In essence, and using actual screen shots of the manual for new lawyers at the office, Ken documents with detail how the public defenders are trained to walk in step with the DA’s office. However, even in this awesomely detailed post, there is still some, and I stress only some room for wiggle by folks like Rick and those who support him.

It is very clear, or at least eliminates a substantial amount of doubt, that the Nassau County Legal Aid Society trains their lawyers to behave a certain way.

What it doesn’t do is prove without reasonable doubt that the lawyers, many of whom came to the defense of Rick, actually behave the way the manual prescribes. So we are clear, what I am saying is this. I never followed an employee manual to the letter, particularly if it meant violating what I thought was right.

What this article did for me is to confirm the need for not only folks like Ken to present a complete picture of things, but for people like me to be willing to actually read the picture in it’s entirety.

If Ken wants the world to know what’s happening, and that there is a need for change, then Ken has an obligation to present the facts, not his opinion. Equally, it is the duty of anyone reading folks like Ken to dig deeper, investigate all sides of the story before making any decisions as to who is or is not believable.

Article Four

In “Failure at the Nassau County Legal Aid Society, Part 2”, in my opinion, Ken goes a long way in demonstrating that he has a lot of integrity. He gives us some insight into his personal feelings on the subject, and justifies a few critical points along the way, including:

  • Why he waited so long to go public with this
  • That he knows the DA’s office is the problem but that the PD’s office needs to stop catering to the DA
  • That the way things are now violates the “innocent until proven guilty” tenet of our society
  • That the public defenders in Nassau do work hard, are not defeatist and really are up against it, but that it is no excuse to roll over and play dead
  • And that if you want change as the public defender, call the new DA and tell her, Madeline Singas, that you are not going to go about things the same way as before

To me though, the most compelling thing Ken has to say in his final article is that being a public defender isn’t a popularity contest. I agree 100% with him in that if I were in need of a criminal defense attorney the last thing I would want is someone who was more interested in getting along then fighting for my rights.

This may or may not be an accurate conclusion for me to draw, but based on this installment in Ken’s series, and because it did have a bit of a personal touch as well as an expression of hope that his peers will stand up for what is right, I believe Ken.

My Final Thoughts  

Given everything that has been stated, the Rick factor took away from a more meaningful discussion. What’s ironic is, in a sea of disagreement, those who are fighting with each other actually agree with each other, and yet the insults continue.

Scott Greenfield, in a comment on one of his posts, calls the lawyers cowards. I don’t know that they are cowards. I think they are confused. I say this however while also believing that they need to take a stand on principle alone if anything Ken says is true.

The DA’s office, to me, in all of this, seems to be the culprit, although the PD’s office, and their management team are certainly making it easy for the DA to violate the rights of indigent defendants.

It seems that most of the lawyers involved, the ones in the trenches are all after the best defense, but neither party seems to agree as to how to go about it.

And if they can’t agree, who am I, or you to step in an assert a more informed opinion. In the end, the ones who suffer in and around all of this are those who find themselves subject to the need to defend themselves in Nassau County.

I guess the best thing to hope for is that it is never you.

That said, if you live in this district, I would take some time and do a little research into things. Corruption does exist but you don’t have to make it easy for the corrupt. 

These are elected officials. They are elected by you. If Ken is even half correct, then the indigent defendants in your area deserve better, and so do you.

Justice for All doesn’t mean justice for only those who can afford it.

Resources and Source Documents

SHG Weighs In

Ken’s 1st Article: “How Nassau County Courts Screw the Poor”

Ken’s 2nd Article: “How Nassau County Poor Are Forced to Sign Away Their Rights”

Ken’s 3rd Article: “Failure at the Nassau County Legal Aid Society, Part 1”

Ken’s 4th Article: “Failure at the Nassau County Legal Aid Society, Part 2”

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