- Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Quoted on April 9, 2001
I do not think the poor are represented fairly in court.
Many lawyers are inexperienced and incompetent for representing their defendants.
In many civil cases poor defendants are assigned lawyers who have almost no experience at all. It is hard to have a fair case if one lawyer has to face another lawyer that has twenty years more of experience in his field. The outcome of the case should be based on the crime, not the lawyer.
Many of the lawyers chosen to defend the indigent are overworked and not prepared. Sometimes the lawyers chosen have extreme working hours, and have no time to prepare for the case. An example of this is the 1984 trial of Calvin Burdine. He was sentenced to life in prison. He allegedly murdered his gay lover.
He was poor and couldn't afford a lawyer, so the state assigned him one.
During the trials, Calvin's lawyer kept falling asleep, even during crucial parts of the case. Calvin ended up losing the case and receiving a life sentence in jail.
In an interview that questioned Calvin's lawyer, the interviewer asked what the lawyer had to say about falling asleep during the case. He said that awake meant being aware of what's going on. Well geez, I have been to a lot of sleepovers in my life, and I am never aware when someone draws a mustache on my face and dips my fingers warm water.
But of course, I'm aware of what happened when I wake up. But when I wake up, it's too late to do anything about it. I already have a massive mustache and a urinated sleeping bag. This is a perfect example of a lawyer that was overworked, inadequate, and inexperienced.
Though there are few good lawyers, states aren't doing a good enough job of getting them to represent poor defendants in intense trials. Statistics say that the poor still do not have representation in 80 percent of all civil cases across the country.
There is about one lawyer for every 240 non-poor Americans, but there is only one lawyer for every 9000 Americans who live below the poverty line.
Not only are people represented poorly, people are accused of crimes that we don't even know they did. We want to have lawyers that care for their clients.
Getting adequate representation in court can be one step we can make to have a more just court system. A way to solve this problem could be increased pay to public defenders.
An increase in pay would not only promote the goal of being well-prepared for trial, but more lawyers would seek careers in public defending.