Public Defending

Scott Howe (Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law) has posted The Perilous Psychology of Public Defending (2015 Journal of the Professional Lawyer pp. 157-175) on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

This article examining the ethical challenges confronting most public defender attorneys is framed as a fictional talk presented by P.D. Atty, a former public defender attorney, at a small conference of new public defender attorneys. The presentation asserts that public defenders typically face psychological obstacles to providing zealous advocacy for all of their clients and that an essential aspect of the remedy starts with recognition of these psychological barriers. The author contends that these challenges relate to a typically unacknowledged aversion to representing certain kinds of criminal defendants. Contrary to common supposition, the strongest aversion is not to representation of certain guilty offenders, such as murderers or child molesters, but to representation of those who claim to be innocent and especially those who actually seem to be innocent, where a full-blown defense, through trial, would be expected to require an extraordinary commitment of time and effort from an overtaxed public defender.


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