Expertise in a Variety of Fields is Required for Criminal Defenders

Criminal Defenders: I have been practising as a criminal defence attorney in Oregon for more than 30 years. Both the letter written by John Reiser (“Readers respond: Draft lawyers as public defenders,” December 4) and the letter written by Roberta Schlechter about encouraging or requiring all lawyers to represent indigent people charged with a crime left me with a bitter taste in my mouth after I read them.

Expertise in a Variety of Fields is Required for Criminal Defenders

These authors demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of the criminal defence process. It is a highly specialised field of work that necessitates the development of certain abilities. After someone knocked you down while you were walking across a crosswalk, would you ask a random member of the Oregon bar to defend you in court? Or to create your will and testament? Have you considered incorporating your small business? Fight with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) because of an incorrect tax assessment?

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Why on earth would you believe that a random member of the Oregon bar could defend you in a criminal case, obtain the correct verdict, and if you were (properly) found guilty, get you the lowest possible sentence? According to Schlechter noted, “quality advocacy” originates from a trained practitioner who possesses specialised training and expertise.

In addition, as Reiser hypothesised, a lawyer who is forced into military service is not likely to perform admirably in any sector of the legal profession. Only until the legislature allocates enough money to fairly compensate defence attorneys who have chosen to focus their practices on criminal defence and who have received training to do so will the indigent defence issue be able to be resolved.

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