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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 4, 2005

will MACAA react like a guild to indigent defense report?

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 5:39 pm

The Massachusetts Association of Court Appointed Attorneys (MACAA) issued

 a press release today (April 4, 2005), giving its initial reaction to the Report of the

Commission to Study the Provision of Counsel to Indigent Persons in Massachusetts

(see our post).  The statement praises the hard work of the Commissioners and spotlights

the recommendation that assigned counsel rates “reach the 75th percentile of national

rates by 2009.”


– read the full story here, which notes

MACAA’s carefully-worded offer of cooperation is more significant: lawyer cellphone small flip

“Believing this proposal to be a work in progress, MACAA

is honored to work with the legislature in finalizing the increased
compensation, improved indigency verification, and other

safeguards to provide zealous defense of constitutional freedoms.”

 and which concludes:

MACAA says it was formed “to ensure that the highest quality of legal

representation is given to each and every person entitled to court appointed

counsel regardless of ability to pay.”   It will be interesting to see whether

it chooses to focus on the goals of a guild:  securing higher fees and assuring

work for its members (through opposition to the increased use of public defenders,

 which would help the State comply with national standards for indigent defense)  or

whether MACAA chooses good faith cooperation with state leaders to build an

indigent defense system that will work effectively and efficiently for their clients,

the courts and the public.

Supplement (July 26, 2005): National standards for indigent defense favor fulltime public defenders, whenever the population and caseload can support them. (Gideon’s Broken Promise, ABA, 2005.)     In Massachusetts, 95% of indigent defense is handled by private assigned counsel. [See the 2005 Mass. Study Commission Report, at pp. 9 – 10.]  Nevertheless, the bar advocates have rabidly opposed the Study Commission’s proposal to have test projects, which would hire more public defenders in the rural counties where the problem is most extreme, and to move toward a more appropriate ratio PDs to BAs — because they do not want to lose the income.

In Hampden County virtually all district court cases are handled by bar advocates.  According to MACAA, the average panel member spends 85% of his or her time on bar advocacy work, in Bristol County it’s 77%. (per Bristol County Bar Advocates chart)

In its section on Massachusetts, the recent landmark American Bar Association report on the nation’s indigent defense system, “Gideon’s Broken Promise: Massachusetts” (Feb. 2005) specifically noted as a problem in the Massachusetts system that:

“Although national standards recommend the use of public defender programs wherever the population and caseload are sufficient to support such organizations, in many areas of Massachusetts, there is almost complete reliance on private assigned counsel, especially in misdemeanor and juvenile delinquency cases.”

Despite this statement, bar advocate spokespersons continuously say that the ABA Gideon Report praised the Massachusetss system. [See., e.g., quote from MACAA press secretary Nancy McLean, to the Lowell Sun Times.] The Gideon Report actually praised the “approach” used in Massachusetts of training the assigned counsel and monitoring them. The Report stated that the basis for their conclusion was the testimony of one witness — Bill Leahy, who is in charge of CPSC, the agency that oversees the bar advocate system, and has the task of training and monitoring the assigned counsel. [See fn. 401 of the full Gideon Report.]


The Massachusets Study Commission noted that when the system was originally set up:

“The idea was that representing indigent persons would allow private attorneys to supplement their income while simultaneously building a private practice.35   Moreover, as noted in Lavallee, the work voluntarily undertaken by private attorneys willing to accept CPCS cases is in the nature of public service because the source of compensation is the ‘limited public treasury’.36

“There has been, however, a gradual yet persistent movement away from that original intent, as an ever increasing number of private attorneys derive all or a significant part of their income from CPCS cases. As more and more private attorneys have come to rely almost exclusively on CPCS cases for their livelihood it is understandable how this group has come to feel underpaid for their services. Such feelings, however, overlook the fact that the hourly rates paid to CPCS private attorneys were never intended to be sufficient to sustain a private practice.”

As MyShingle‘s Carolyn Elefant recently explained, responding to bar advocate opposition to a cap of 1400 hours per year per panel member, Court Appointed Work Is Not Supposed To Be A Full Time Job! (July 23, 2005).  I also agree with her Comment at the Andrew Winters Blawg, that — when using an assigned counsel panel as part of the indigent defense system — we can expect better attention to indigent cases from lawyers with self-sustaining law practices who take indigent work out of a sense of public service, and from less experienced lawyers who take the cases to gain valuable experience.  When assigned counsel spend the vast majority of their time on indigent work, but are still attempting to find more lucrative private clients, they will surely give the private client special attention.

footsteps and epitaphs

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:15 pm

Light footsteps on the bridge–

necks of drifting swans

just visible through mist










Spring clouds–

the thoroughbreds

nod through their breath








Shoots of new grass

over a crumbling tombstone

the faded epitaph



(Birch Prees Press, 2002)




the river’s back

within its banks —

her look of disappointment


             [April 4, 2005]





tiny check  Yesterday, Professor Bainbridge chided the liberal elite who do not

agree with Steve and John Paul II that “truth” is decided in the salons

of the Vatican.  I predict that, during my lifetime and Steve’s, another Pope

will apologize to women and gays for the way the Church has treated them

over the millennia.


Remember my piece on podriahs from March 26?  A website called

Offshoring Digest liked it enough to place the entire posting within a black

frame on its “news ticker” page (haiku and all) — but, with only a hyperlink

 to the original post, and no mention of this weblog or the author.  I do grant

a non-commercial Creative Commons license.  Offshoring Digest appears to

be commercial. Copyright aside, am I right to be irked that there’s no attribution?

update: April 7, 2005:  Rebecca Arcega, editor/writer of Offshoring

Digest responded right away to my message asking for attribution,

and I’m pleased to have the podriah posting at their site.


Bonus: flood haiku from two Honored Guests:



dinner party
glancing up from grace
to the flood mark on the wall


                    Peggy Lyles  from To Hear the Rain




flooded plain —
fence tops show which water
belongs to whom
  — George Swede – The Heron’s Nest

the solitude of a papal poet

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 12:56 am

In his book, The Pontiff in Winter : Triumph and Conflict in the Reign of

John Paul II  (2004),  John Cornwell writes that the papal role takes over the

personality of the individual who is elected to the “strangest, most impossible

and isolating and job on earth.”  [p.8]  He quotes Pope Paul VI:  “I was solitary

before, but now my solitariness becomes complete.  Hence the dizziness,

the vertigo.”


JP2poetry  Karol Wojtila, who became John Paul II, was also a poet of note,

especially in the years before his papacy. See The Place Within (1982).  In 

The Pontiff in Winter, Cornwell tells of an incident that may help us understand

the papal solitude of John Paul.  [p. 9]  It revolves around a theologian who sat

next to the Pope at a Vatican dinner:

“Holy Father, I love poetry and I’ve read all of your verse.  Have

you written much poetry since you became Pope? ” To which the

Pope said: “I’ve written no poetry since I became Pope.”   So the

theologian said: “Well, why is that, Holy Father?”  The Pope cut

him dead, turning to the person on the other side. 


Twenty minutes later, John Paul turned to the theologian and said

curtly: “No context!”  That was all.  . . . .


But [John Paul] had imparted a tragic truth perhaps.  The papal office

takes over the whole person.  That is what the job demands.  When he

said there was no “context” for poetry, he seemed to be acknowledging

that, in the depths of his soul, deep down where the poetry is written,

there lies a terrible, vertiginous solitude.

I’d like to think that Karol Wojtila made himself a promise after that awkward   JohnPaul2

dinner encounter — to reconnect to the part of him that was the poet. The

small volume of published in 2003, The Poetry of Pope John Paul II,  may

have been the result of that pledge.


When I read The Pontiff in Winter last month, I was saddened at the thought 

of a poet too consumed with the obligations of office to have the time and the

“context” to write poetry.  John Paul II and I may have disagreed on many

issues, but I bet he would agree with me that the dignity he asserted for every

human being includes the right to maintain a connection between daily life and

the inner soul — so that each of us has the opportunity to nurture a relationship

with our personal Muse.  No job, not even one as important as the papacy,

should take away the poetry of life. 

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