Law Firm Partner Isn't An Adequate Substitute for Defendant's First Choice of Lawyer
A criminal defendant can't be forced to settle for representation by his lawyer's partner when the lawyer he hired is unavailable for trial, ruled the Maryland Court of Appeals in Miguel Gonzales v. State of Maryland. As the Maryland Daily Record summarizes, Gonzales' attorney F. Spencer Gordon was unavailable on the day of trial, so Marshall Henslee, his partner appeared instead. Gonzales insisted that he was represented by Gordon, not Henslee, so the judge gave Gonzales the option of either going forward with Henslee or representing himself. Gonzales chose to represent himself and lost. On appeal, he argued that the judge deprived him of his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by denying him representation by his lawyer of choice. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that:
Accordingly, the court overturned the conviction.
One would think that the defendant's lawyers would be excited about the decision (though apparently they did not argue the appeal) -- but instead, Gordon's partner Henslee expressed concerns over the court's ruling. Henslee complained to the Daily Record that the court's ruling would force his firm to "reconsider the fairly established practice of having law partners stand in for each other at trial when the primary attorney is unavailable that day." Gordon also commented, saying that the ruling will compel defense firms to make it clear to their clients that "it's the firm that represents them" and that any attorney in the practice may handle the case. What I can't understand, however, is why defense firms weren't explaining this to clients all along.Sphere: Related Content
The True Toll of Unemployment
These days, losing a law firm job doesn't necessarily mean a complete loss of income with most firms offering some kind of severance -- either two to five months worth of salary, or several months of pre-termination notice. Still, financial loss isn't the only repercussion of lay-offs -- and indeed, it's perhaps the least serious. As Jane Genova writes at Law and More, "the residual negative effects" of losing a career linger permanently. Genova references a piece from New York Magazine that makes the point that " joblessness isn't just a financial problem." From the article:
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The The National Law Journal also documents the psychological toll of job loss on the legal profession including, sadly, three apparently layoff-related suicides at major firms during the past six months. And even for those who remain employed, the recession continues to cause stress. To its credit, the ABA is acting quickly to address these issues -- it recently sponsored a CLE program entitled "What Lawyers Need to Know About Suicide During a Recession: Prevention, Identity and Law Firm Responsibility," a recording of which will be available at no cost to all lawyers at the request of The Posse List.
Posted by Carolyn Elefant on May 11, 2009
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