Public Defenders Are Taken to Task – For Shame!

In the op-ed of the Los Angeles Daily Journal, January 29, 2008, R. Konrad Moore suggests that public defenders who choose to strike betray the constitutional rights and liberty of their clients.

Shame on you for thinking that public defenders owe more to society than other lawyers, public officials or average citizen.  Mr. Moore seems to believe that becoming a government employee, a public defender, means that one’s human and normal rights are checked at the door. 

Yes, becoming a lawyer does mean that there are certain rights and responsibilities one takes on that are not required by others.  However, I do not hear Mr. Moore suggesting that all lawyers owe a pro bono obligation to society, or that government officials are not entitled to seek increased compensation or that Corporate America has a social responsibility to its customers and a responsibility to its shareholders by keeping CEO compensation within reasonable boundaries or, for that matter, that the State Bar owes a duty to the public to require that all attorneys have malpractice insurance.  And, I don’t hear that the State Bar owes a duty of any kind to its members, let alone  obtaining a program of low cost malpractice insurance so that attorneys could then better protect the public they serve. That would be spreading responsibilities too far. He’s concerned only about limiting the compensation of public defenders.

Why then showed public defenders not be entitled to come together as any other group of employees in order to seek better conditions of work.  Does Mr. Moore mean that the government can give any compensation, no matter how low, to public defenders and that the public defenders should be grateful to receive it?  What about district attorneys?  If they were to organize, as some have, does Mr. Moore likewise believe that there is a violation of the constitutional rights of citizens?

His argument is disingenuous and should be placed in its proper context. More to the point, why does Mr. Moore not argue that it is the responsibility of government and its citizens to make sure that defendants receive the best possible representation by compensating public defenders fairly and in accordance with compensation generally received in private law firms?

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