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Jena 6: Public Defenders and Ethical Complications When I first read about the J

by | Aug 31, 2022 | Law | 0 comments

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Jena 6: Public Defenders and Ethical Complications
When I first read about the Jena 6 I was under the impression that it would have been a case from the 1960’s, not 2006. This is something that absolutely blows my mind that this took place, and the injustices that occurred in this case. Public defenders are severely understaffed, and underfunded. This can cause a lot of plea deals to be made by public defenders. They do not have the necessary recourses to properly represent people in the manner they deserve (Farole, J. . D. J., & Langton, L., 2010). One study found that there was 5.5 million cases to just over 15,000 attorneys (Farole, J. . D. J., & Langton, L., 2010). This does not mean this is ethical. Public defenders take an oath to do their duties to the best of their ability, and uphold the constitution. If they do not have the necessary means to handle their duties, their needs to be a restructure of the system to allow them sufficient recourses to uphold their oath.
Unconscious biases are prevalent, and influence public defenders decision making when taking cases (RICHARDSON, L. S., & GOFF, P. A., 2013). It is very possible that a public defender in this state had unconscious bias, or even conscious bias, that impacted the way they defended their client in this case. Unfortunately, racism is still a significant issue in our society and this shows by just the existence of this case. Also, the public defender knowing the bias of the community could have been easily influenced by the community to not aggressively represent their client to not tarnish their reputation in the community. They are a stakeholder in this case because their reputation is on the line.
Contract defenders have made the public image of public defenders fall to an all-time low. It is no secret that public defenders do not properly do their job. Contract defenders have the right to provide legal assistance for a whole county, and are selected by lowest bid. This is one reason society looks at public defenders more like “plea-guilty-defenders (Bach, A., 2001).” When people do not even have the chance to sit down and talk to their lawyer for a significant amount of time regarding their case, it makes the public weary of if they are legitimately looking out for the best interest of defendants. This is a system that perpetuates racism, and classism, because people that cannot afford high-end defenders are stuck with people that railroad defendants into pleading guilty, even if that is not the case, like with Mychal Bell. Considering there was no deadly weapon used in this instance, it should have been a case that was fought aggressively by the defense.
If it is obvious that a lawyer is not doing their job it is ethical for a judge to step in. It would be unethical for them not to step in. In this case the lawyer was committing legal malpractice. It would be hard to prove this if Mychal Bell had not filed for a appeal and won (Update: they did not win the appeal on the charge, but instead of being tried as an adult). Legal malpractice can happen when the defendant has the ability to receive a better result, but the lawyer did not use their necessary skill to provide this result (Richmond, D. R., 2021). Because the defendant did receive a better result when the lawyer provided the necessary defense, the judge should have noticed this and upheld the law by stepping in during this case. The judge has the ability to stop the trial, and assign a different defender to the case that would be fair, and fight for the best interest of the defendant. But, in this case, the judge was a stakeholder in this case because they would not want to anger the community they worked for, for reasons from personal safety, to reputation.
References
Bach, A. (2001). Justice on the Cheap. Nation, 272(20), 25.
Farole, J. . D. J., & Langton, L. (2010). A national assessment of public defender office caseloads. Judicature, 94(2), 87–90.
RICHARDSON, L. S., & GOFF, P. A. (2013). Implicit Racial Bias in Public Defender Triage. Yale Law Journal, 122(8), 2626–2649.
Richmond, D. R. (2021). The Judicial Error Defense to Legal Malpractice. Brief, 51(1), 24–31.

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