Criminals With Money Getting Free Lawyers


There are folks who could afford to hire their own attorney getting free lawyers.
The problem is that nobody checks to see whether a defendant is poor enough to qualify for a public defender.
A defendant signs an affidavit swearing that he is poor. Nobody questions the form.
Taxpayers end up paying for the defense.
This has been the subject of great debate on the always interesting Jaablog, a Broward courthouse website. Private lawyers, mostly commenting anonymously on the blog, suspect there is a great deal of fraud in the system.
Ralph Behr is one local defense lawyer who is willing to complain openly and publicly. He wants somebody to take action against the fraud — either judges, the trial bar, the clerk’s office or the public defenders.
He has gotten no one interested so far. Nobody wants the hassle of investigating defendants’ assets.
 “No one wants to know (the truth), Behr says. “No one wants to know (whether defendants deserve a free lawyer).
“The judges don’t want to know (the truth).  They want to move cases. The public defender doesn’t want to know. The clerk doesn’t want to know.
Behr says that a man charged with a domestic crime came to his office.  He had been didn’t like his assistant public defender and wanted a private attorney.
“He had plenty of money, Behr recalls.
Despite Behr’s story, Public Defender Howard Finkelstein doubts the problem is widespread.
 “You would have to be a rare bird to commit a felony by lying about your assets just to get a public defender that most defendants rather not have.  Who would choose to be represented to a public defender if they could get a private attorney? Finkelstein says.
Finkelstein says he would love to drop defendants not poor enough to be represented.  His office, however, won’t be the ones to investigate the clients
“We can’t start off a relationship representing someone by investigating them and probing into their assets, Finkelstein says.
Finkelstein says he won’t discontinue the practice which really annoys private lawyers going into the jail as people are arrested and asking if defendants need a lawyer.
Poor people deserve representation as soon as they enter the system, he says.  “If they say they qualify, we represent them from the start. 
Behr and Finkelstein agree that something should be done to save taxpayers money.  Somebody should find a way to check whether unqualified defendants are being represented by the PDs Office.
Finkelstein says his office is in a financial crisis, trying to handle 40,000 cases with 20 less lawyers this year because of state budget problems. 
And Finkelstein makes this offer to anyone who can get unqualified defendants off his case load: 
 “Nobody wants less cases then me. Cut my case load and I’ll give you a big hug and a kiss.
How about just a handshake, Howard?

One Response to “Criminals With Money Getting Free Lawyers”

  1. law lady says:

    Finkelstein is right. Who would really want a PD, with their tremendous case load.