Saturday, October 08, 2005

A Bill of Client's Rights For The Accused: A WIKI PROJECT

Arbitrary and Capricious: Severance and sufferance

My blogging friend Skelly over at one of my favorite blogs for criminal trial lawyers Arbitrary and Capricious had a post about a "virus" motion* that is going around that is meant to set up the client's public defender for removal/disqualification.
I will put aside the fact that Public Defenders are more often than not some of the best lawyers in the courtroom and that no decent lawyer would sign the document provided by the "virus", and focus instead on the use of the document as a starting point for public defense lawyers and maybe all lawyers to discuss the concepts of loyalty and allegiance in the attorney-client relationship.

As I am far from the only lawyer who has an opinion on these matters I thought we might turn this into a Wiki project. Until I find a home for it I figure authors can leave comments here and then I'll incorporate them into the document.
Any way, here goes:

As your court-appointed defense attorney, I will
1. Provide a diligent and vigorous
defense to be presented on your behalf. I will competently pursue a plea bargain or if none is available or acceptable I will prepare the case for trial without haste or unnecessary delay

2. Whether you are guilty or innocent I will vigorously represent you. I will force the prosecution to prove each and every element of your charge beyond a reasonable doubt. MY SOLE ALLEGIANCE IS TO YOU, MY CLIENT, THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND,THE CONSTITUTION, LAWS AND RULES OF THE STATE OF (your state).

3. I will accept your version of the facts until such time as I am convinced by facts that it is not true. You will agree that I am a professional and that I can provide a defense even if I am unconvinced of its truth.

4. I will not subjourn perjury by anyone. Period.

5. I will provide you with the best estimate I can of your case. I will not try to convince you to take a plea, but will respect your ability to decide for yourself what offers are in your best interest. I will not participate in any attempts to practice bullpen therapy.

6. If whether by your refusal to cooperate or because of a conflict between us I become unable to adequately represent you, I will request to be relieved from the case.

7. I state to you now that I do not harbor any bias(racial, ethnic, class, gender, or religious) against you. Nor will my efforts be increased or decreased based on any common backround between us nor because of how I am compensated in this case. You will receive the same quality representation from me whether you are an assigned or retained client.

8. I will treat you with respect and courtesy and expect the same from you. I do not believe that such means we will not disagree or even argue. I do believe it to mean that we will speak with a civil tongue, we will listen to each other even if we do not like what the other is saying and neither of us will threaten any harm to each other.

9. I will attempt to keep all objectionable evidence out of the trial and will do my best to make a record for appeal while still keeping an eye on winning the trial so that an appeal will be unnecessary

10. I will either return your phone calls within 48 hours of receiving them or if I deem it appropriate I will have a member of my staff do so. If you still need to speak to me you will tell my staff. Finally you will use SMS and E-mail where appropriate to aid our communication.

11. I will make copies of all of your documents available to you and will explain them to you.

12. I will keep you abreast of all new major developments in your case within 36 hours of learning of them.

13. If we are at trial or hearings, I will not agree to speak on the record without you being present unless you say in advance that it is ok to do so.

14. I will do everything within my ability to bring your case to a successful end.

Well that is a start. Now you all can post your thoughts about this and if anybody knows how I can turn this into a True WIKI let me know. You can leave a message here or reach me at Thanks

* A "virus" motion is a document usually written in pseudo-legal speak that circulates throughout a jail or prison and then spreads from lockup to lock up. The prisoners use the virus motion by changing a few parts of the documents and then vex their otherwise competent defense lawyers by screwing up their defense and of course forcing the defense lawyer to either adopt the motion and keep his client's trust or deny the motion and destroy the lawyer client relationship


Anonymous said...

Why not be explicit that this is not only a bill of client's rights for the accused but rather a statement not only of what the client can reasonably expect from the attorney but also an expression of the treatment the attorney expects and requires of the client (e.g. no threats) to accomplish an effective defense?

That Lawyer Dude said...

How about if we name it "A statement of Client's Rights and Responsibilities"?