A Rewardless Job

Another reason why, financially at least, it sucks to be a public defender. All completely hypothetical, of course.

I guess it was around Christmas, I was watching America's Most Wanted with my parents, and, it made me think...

What if you saw one of your clients on AMW? Now, I guess this can happen one of three ways. The first, is that you represent someone on murder or some other serious charges, and they go missing, and then they put your case on AMW? (Although, it seems to me that most of the people wanted on AMW were pre-arrest and arraignment.)

Second, any person you see on AMW who is not your client yet, probably eventually could be. Picture it, you see someone on AMW and you call in and say, "Hey, I know that guy, he works at the deli I go to." Fine, no conflict, it has nothing to do with your job.

But then, they go out and arrest this guy, and he can't afford a lawyer, and he ends up represented by your office. I guess that we would refer that to conflict counsel, the same way we would if a public defender was the victim of a crime. But, still, it's weird to think about... if you called to help them catch someone, it's almost like you're drumming up business for yourself or your colleagues who handle conflicts.

But, third (and what is more likely to happen to me) is that someone is on AMW because he's wanted for murder somewhere else... and you represent him on some small local case. (For example, he committed the murder, fled to your state, and got arrested for... I don't know, shoplifting, but your state didn't recognize him or know about the warrant). I guess you can probably safely assume that, if he's out, he won't be showing up for his next court date.

But what kind of sucks is that there's no way to call and get a reward, even if you have an address written down on your file clear as day.

I'm not saying that I'm just dying to turn my clients over to the authorities... I'm just saying that it's weird to watch the show and think, "Hmmm... I have a job that precludes me from getting any of these rewards." It makes it sort of pointless to watch that show.

Unless that reward was so much money that it made it worth it to give up your law license. And it never is.


  1. So, what happens if you turn in the deli guy, and it turns out someone in your office is already representing him for something else? Or you represented him five years ago for three minutes when he plead out for time served on something? Probably not an ethics violation, I'd guess, but it would make for a few awkward moments...

  2. Exactly. See? It kind of means no turning people in. At all. Even if there's, like, a million dollar reward and you know right where the guy is.