tv [untitled] January 18, 2011 12:30am-1:00am PST
lady lawyer bill and off i went to sacramento. there i was. now i had very little money so i was able to talk a conductor of one of the trains into taking me in the caboose for free but i got to sacramento. when i arrived there at the state capitol it was a constitutional convention and i never saw so many men, so well -- throwing tantrums over a little woman like me just wanting to be a lawyer. well, their faces were as red as turkey gobblers. they just could not buy that whole idea. but i just kept arguing. in n a lady like manner of course. and the bill passed on the second vote. now there are hundreds of these
bills before the convention and they would not become law until the governor signed them. well, time was running out. it was almost midnight on the last day. i didn't know what to do. so i stroled into the governor's office and up to his desk and i politely told him that i would like to be a lawyer and he said why? and i said because that's my lifelong dream and why couldn't a woman be a lawyer? he signed that bill and i became the first woman lawyer in california and the west coast. but even though i became that lawyer, i felt i would be -- i could get more clients if i had a law degree. see, i was self-educated. so i went to hastings law school to register and they said they wouldn't permit me to be there.
something about the rustling of petticoats bothering the male students. i don't know. so my friend and i, lori gordon, we sued hastings, which included judge hastings, one of the great lawyers and judges at that time and oh, they were mad and oh, did they fight us, all the way up to the california supreme court. and we won. and became the first woman law student. now i hung up my shingles. throngs of clients did not come to my door and those who did had little or no money. i began to defend them and they didn't care that i was a woman. they just wanted someone who would fight for them and would win, which i did a lot of. but then there is also -- there were a few of those judges and prosecutors that were a different story when it came to
being around women. i remember this one prosecutor in san francisco. >> she's a woman! she cannot be expected to reason. god almighty has decreed her limitations. but you can reason. and you must use your factor you mights of reason -- faculties of reason to find against this young woman. >> oh, my! i am that formidable, terrifying object known as women. while he is only a poor, helpless, defenseless man. and he wants you to take pity on him and give him the verdict in this case. i sympathize with counsel in his unhappy condition.
true, the world is -- he is -- of all men. he can aspire to the highest office. he can carry -- around the streets during election and pay for his vote. and like alexander, he wants more worlds to conquer. and norled awaken your sympathy -- in order to awaken your sympathy, he tells you that i am a woman and he is only a man. [applause] now every time -- every time the jury voted not guilty as they did in this case, i knew i had won not only a victory for myself but for women everywhere. suddenly i found myself in demand. i even tried cases throughout
california, denver and new york. but something deeply concerned me about the problems in the criminal injustice system. i began to challenge the practices right here in san francisco where they were not only shackling prisoners but they were putting them in a cage like you see at the zoo and i took that case on and i won. i was arguing that the presumption of innocence did not allow this barbaric treatment. i also worked to improve conditions in prisons separating juveniles from adults and even getting women as mate rons for women prisoners. but as i tried more and more cases i became convinced that the only way we could have equal and fair justice systems was to provide lawyers for the court. i called them public defenders.
>> mrs. clara shortridge fultz who was introducing her proposed law on lawyers for the poor here at the 1893 chicago worlds fair. >> thank you. the recommend disof many of the evils of -- remedies of many of the evils nice the appointment of a public defender. for every public prosecutor there should be a public defender chosen in the same way, paid out of the same funds as public prosecutor. police and sheriffs should be equally at hor command -- his or her command. it should meet the legitimate mat expenses. let the criminal court recognize on the basis of an exact and equal justice.
let our courts be broad enough and generous enough to make the law a shield, not just a sword. and there will come to this date as a natural consequence all of those blessings which flow from the constitutional ob indications consciously kept and the government's duties sacredly performed. that was one of my proudest moments. over 36 states picked up the program but it was kind of troubling me. it took over 20 years for california to open up the public defender's office. first in los angeles in 1916 and then here in san francisco in 1921. so, remember, you have to keep trying. go after your dreams. i did. wait if you must, but in the
end, you will win. [applause] >> thank you very much, and shaffs sharon avey. thank you, sharon for the incredible presentation. i also want to mention she has written a book about clara fultz. if you're interested, get a copy of sharon's book and get it on amazon or get it here in the lobby. i'm now going introduce our first panel. ordinary injustice. our first panel come from all over the united states. i'm going ask them now to join me on stage.
>> as i mentioned earlier, we are going to examine how injustice occurs. and we're going to be looking at not only big injustices but small ones and how they affect not only the way in which the criminal justice system either works or doesn't work but also how it affects the lives of every day people. our first panelist is amy bach. miss bach spent eight years studying courts throughout the
country and she wrote a book called "ordinary injustice." it is really an incredible book that looks at the perspective of the justice system from a contract public defender's per spivet, a prosecutor's perspective and a judge's perspective and she was able to come up with some brilliant insights about not whoonl the problems are not only what the problems are but what to do about it. professor bener wrote incredible tweetice studying public office throughout the state of -- tweetice studying public office throughout the states of california. why they are not equipped to properly handle all of the cases that they have and the
challenges involved in it and what to do about it. next we have the public defender of fresno county. ken tagucci. he has fought a valiant battle. it is still going on on. a raging battle with the board of supervisors in fresno county and last year, they cut his staff by 12 attorneys and at the same time he was expected to handle more cases. and the county responded when public defender said he could not do any more cases by trying to outsource the responsibility of the public defender to low-cost bidders. next we have john truzano who comes from washington, d.c. he is the co-founder of the justice project and john
recently co-authored a report about accountability of both prosecutors and judges and so he studied why misconduct curse and what steps need to be taken to ensure that it doesn't happen and finally we have sean levy. he did a serious about the fact in santa clara county they were not providing lawyers at the first appearance in misdemeanor cases. he will tell you about his series of stories that actually changed the practice in santa clara. i want to start with amy and if you can tell us what is "ordinary injustice" and how does it manifest itself?
>> ordinary injustice happens in a courtroom where there are smart, committed, hard-working people, professionals. but they are routinely acting in ways that fall short. what it is that people and their positions are supposed to be doing. and they don't even realize that anything is missing or that their behavior has devastating consequences for regular people's lives. so this is really the meaning of ordinary injustice that mistakes become routine and the legal professionals can no longer see their role in them. >> can you give us some examples of what you found in your eight-year saga of studying the court system? >> sure. the best way to perhaps get into it is to tell you how i first came across it.
i had just graduated law school from stanford and i had clerked for a federal appellate judge in miami and the jurisdiction was florida, alabama and georgia and i wrote a story after my clerkship for the "nation" magazine and it was picked up everywhere. they said if you can do this again, we'll give you a year to write about civil rights which sounded pretty good because i wouldn't have to make major decisions about my career and i could write stories about things that interested me and i began to sit in courtrooms all over the country. the court that made me realize that i wanted to write a book was in green county, georgia. it was a beautiful place. president bush vacationed there three times during his presidency. i walked up the stairs and i saw
the public defender there and he is a man named robert who sa major character in chapter one and he has tons of people swarming around him and they are waving papers trying to get about two minutes with him before their cases are going to be called before the judge. now this is the way it worked here in green county. he would call their anytime. john smith, are you here? and then john smith would come and be told what the prosecutor was offering and people had called and not heard back. they didn't get any attention to the individual circumstances of their cases. instead, they were called before the judge and another attorney who even left about the case would stand there almost like a piece of cardboard and the people would plead guilty. now it was incredibly obvious in court that day that people had no idea what was happening to them.
people started to cry in the middle of pleading guilty. wait, i'm pleading guilty. i didn't realize i had agreed to go to jail. it was really a mess mess . what i really learned later is that robert was a croobt defender and he had a -- contract defender and he had a full private practice representing people who paid him money and he had earned a sum of money from the county and had to represent as many people as the prosecutor was going to charge and during the two-year period, he had represented twice the number of people that the american bar association recommended as the slutes maximum. now -- absolute maximum. now, there was something else that happened that day in court and this is extremely important. i was sitting there and there were these long, dark, wooden benches and everybody was sort of creeking because the judge, the prosecutor and the defense
attorney were all huddled together at the front. now, all you could really hear in court was the creeking to have wooden benches. you couldn't hear anything that was going on and i was trying to take notes for my story and next to me was this guy. his name is steve bright. he is head of the southern center for human rights in atlanta. he had come because i told him imi was doing this story and he had been suing different counties across the state saying they were providing a lack of quality indigent defense. he said i'll come sit with you. he state your name turns to me and said amy, you're trying to take notes for your story. you can't hear anything. why don't you ask the judge to speak up. i said i'm not going to that. i'm here as a neutral reporter. i'm a journalist. i'm not going to make myself -- i don't want to raise a instructous. the whole thing is kind of
pointless. all of a sudden steve, who has this deep, booming voice raises himself halfway up and says your honor, if you wouldn't mind please speak up. we can't hear. thank you very much. the whole place like turns and looks at steve and we're sitting in there and as rust as commotion as it was before, you you can't hear a pin drop. the judge says who are you? come before me. i want to know what you want and steve goes like this. your honor, we can't hear you. if you wouldn't mind, speaking up. the judge calms him to come before him and steve crawls over everybody's legs and gets before the judge and he takes over the courtroom.
he says your honor. we're all here. we're missing work. we have left our children in the care of others. this is a public hearing and we would like to hear so if you wouldn't mind please speak up. everyone starts to cheer. that's right. this is a public hearing. i want to hear. people are clapping and the judge is pounding on the gavel. the judge says all right. all right. there is a lot of interest here. we're going to take 15-minute break and we're going to come back and i'll figure out what to do. 15 minutes later, by the way in the break everybody is coming up to steve and they are like, you know, shaking his hand and begging him to represent them. so, so, so she comes back and puts up on a microphone and for the rest of the day everybody could hear but i went back to that court the next day and steve was gone and so was the
microphone. i went back to the court for weeks on end for the next five years because i wrote a whole chapter about this community and there was never another microphone and there was always that huddle. that huddle is what my book is about. it is about people who work in the system who become more attached to each other than they are to the jobs that they are supposed to be doing. and what they do is they lose a sense of what it is that is important and who it is that they are supposed to be protecting and instead, the justice system becomes more about them and this really became the seed for ordinary injustice in the book. [applause] >> that's quite a story. remember, when we go to court tomorrow, ask the judge to speak up. >> i've been reminded by doctors.
they have to wear a -- a sign on their shirts that say ask me did i wash my hands. can you imagine if a judge had a sign ask in to speak up. >> or ask me if i'm being fair. [laughter] so, you know, the things a you witnessed, amy, i'm going to ask professor bener to talk about what is the culprit here? are we talking about incompetent lawyers? lawyers who don't care? are we talking about a system that is set up for lawyers to fail? what were the findings that you made as a result of looking at public defender offices throughout california? >> i'm going to speak more to structural aspects of it. i think amy is speaking more of the cultural and human aspects
of the job. our system as you know is based on the theory that any accused person who comes to court is presumed innocent. they are protected by that preassumption. that's why, in fact, we provide council for an indigent person whoke not afford counsel. unfortunately, it paints a rather discouraging picture because i found that there is a fundamental disconnect between that theory and actual practice in california and that disconnect occurs because the system, the indigent defense system is funded by local politicians. now these are public officials who must make decisions. they must choose among many worthy, competing concerns that are vying for those scarce taxpayer dollars and not surprising, most of them or at
least many of them assume most defendants are guilty, they tend to make decisions about indigent defense systems based on the presumption of guilt. that has made a system in many county where is processing the presumed guilty as cheaply as possible is given a much higher authority than investigating the possibility of a defendant's innocence. we have seen budget cuts while caseloads have continued to increase and in an increasing number of counties we have seen the fate of the indigent accused being put up for bid by offering contracts for attorneys who'll do that work the cheapest. that has a profound effect on our criminal justice system because the vast majority of criminal defendants are indigent. they are not able to afford their own private attorney.
we found for example, more than eight out of 10 felony defendants were indigent and must therefore be provided with counsel. we did a study of cases looking at the systems and we discovered that the system for providing the sturl providing indigent defense services in many countieses is filing perform the most basic duty required of a defense attorney and that is to conduct a thorough investigation of the facts. that is what protects the innocent from wrongful conviction. i think i have a graphic here that shows what we found in this study of over 2,000 cases, almost half of the convictions that were overturned on appeal because of defense attorneys involve the failure to investigate. now you might think that this is a problem with the lawyers. unfortunately, we tend to blame
the problems of our system on the individuals involved and that ignores the wider systemic factors. i think failure to investigate is a good example of that. why we had this failure to investigate results not from individual lawyers so much as the inability of individual lawyers to do that job because they don't have the resource. over 2/3 of the judges that we interviewed admitted that they had a problem in their county investigating indigent cases because they didn't have the resources. all of the public defenders that we interviewed and sent questionnaires to that we surveyed all of them reported they had not have enough adequate investigators on their staff and in fact, a number of these crabblingt defenders don't have any -- contract defenders don't have any staff investigatedors at all.
the national standard promulgated by goals states there should be one investigator for every three attorneys. we found that most offices in this state don't comply with that. they don't meets that requirement. some had as many as nine attorneys to one investigator. that problem is coming pounded by the fact that attorneys also are overloaded. more than three out of four public defender offices reported excessive attorney caseloads were a significant problem in their office. you have a multiplirefect. if there are mot enough hours in the day to investigate the cases obviously some soft cases don't get investigated. that's the problem that we're seeing. now other problem of course deals with well, why is that situation? public defenders represent the lion's share of all of the cases.
yet what we see, you would expect them to have rough parity with the prosecutor's office. we don't see that. what we see statewide is for every dollar spent on prosecution only 53 cents is spent on average for the indigent accused. yet in some counties as much as 95% of all the cases involve indigent defendants. continuing to underfund indigent defense and continuing to tolerate excessive investigator caseloads and excessive attorney caseloads, if we continue to do that we substantially impair the ability to provide good reputation. >> thank you very much. wow. 53 cents to a dollar. [applause] that's why i'm always broke.
all right. let's go to public defender kenneth. ken, tell us. you are in fresno. first of all, what is it like in fresno? [laughter] and tell us about this battle that you have been going through where, you know, it almost sounds like a horror movie where they are going after you with a buzz saw and at the same time, they have used contract attorneys to try to undercut the work that your office does. >> well, the problem in fresno, it is hot. trezz know is hot of course in the -- fresno is hot of course in summertime. it is hot all the time for me. i think the problem just mentioned right now is disparity in the funding theme as opposed to the ore parties involved in the criminal -- other parties involved in the criminal justice system.
most of the funding agencies for us is almost 100% from the county. while the prosecution has the benefit of grants. in fact, i believe the district attorney might have at least half of their budget is provided by grants. that is not provided to the indigent defense providers. federal grants are almost all directed toward prosecution and law enforcement. so the problem to have vast resources that i'm facing right now is that you have grant funding the police department, the sheriff's deft, the district attorney's office. there is a share that -- etc., etc. that share, which for them is a portion of their funding is almost my entire funding so when you say you're going to cut 13% off everybody equally. well, 13% for us is more than %