Gideon v. Wainwright
I thank Bruce R. Jacob for his enlightening and entertaining article, “Fifty Years Later: Memories of Gideon v. Wainwright.” Jacob not only reminded us of the importance of Gideon v. Wainwright but shared with us the rare treat of an insider’s perspective.
Judith E. McCaffrey
New York, NY
In Florida, approximately 75 percent of all criminal defendants use the public defender. Instead of being the attorney of last resort, the public defender has become the attorney of first choice. Far too many people are using and abusing the system. While public defenders are persistent in seeking increased funding, they are lax in making sure clients are really indigent or in seeking and collecting fees from clients. The legislature passed laws empowering public defenders to charge for the cost of services, then collect those fees through collection courts, liens, or as a probation condition. An alternative for truly indigent clients is an order to perform community service (F.S. §938.30(2)) as a condition of probation.
Public defenders could use these tools to reduce the total number of cases they handle. Make the public defender a less attractive option. This reduction will allow the public defender to then use their resources on the remaining cases and provide an effective defense.
Just as changing some of the rules for welfare recipients lead to millions of people leaving the welfare system in the 1980s, a change of rules for the public defender system would lead to substantial reductions in the number of people using the public defender. As in days gone by, a fresh-out-of-law-school attorney could cut their teeth on high volume, low-cost criminal cases. The taxpayers would benefit; the private bar would benefit; and clients would benefit by taking personal responsibility for their actions. None of this can happen while the public defender remains such a fierce competitor for cases.
Kenneth E. Rhoden, Cocoa
One suspects that Justice Rehnquist thought, in sitting with John A. Jenkins, he would be getting the “Walter F. Murphy” treatment; instead, he got “Joe McGinniss-ed” (Books, March).
David Mandrell’s review notes that Rehnquist is no greater partisan than many justices (and, one must conclude, Jenkins himself). Those seeking the late Chief Justice’s thoughts on Court precedent, politics, or policy should find a copy of The Supreme Court by William Rehnquist.
Richard E. Marsh, Jr., Charlotte, NC