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  #1  
Old 10-04-2016, 06:35 PM
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Excellent and informative response. Assumptions, mostly good, I'm sure based on a lot of experience. I disagree with above point. Correct decisions are not to our (parent or other) benefit. but to the benefit of accused. Post presumes the legal field is "monolithic", that most private attorneys have somewhat equivalent motivation, acquired skill, experience, willingness to fight. I experienced significant variation. Finding an attorney with those attributes impacts results and, I believe, critical to the accused and their life. I know now attorney who steered him into the plea was weak. I wish I'd found "yourself" or a clone of him in my search.

Important to bail decision was to delay arraignment to select an attorney (admittedly I'd have bailed him anyway). Bail did extend arraignment date a little over 2 weeks leaving (my experience) not enough time to have confidence in selection. Do I have great suggestions on how to pick attorney or how much time is needed? Nope. One man operation? Partnership? Big firm / multiple offices? Good relationship with DA or not? Referrals from other attorneys? Maybe you know someone who's been through criminal justice before? Big fancy website? Referrals on Avvo and related websites? Again, I don't know for sure but I think the attorney decision is the single decision that matters most.
I think you touch on one of the critical aspects of trying to pick a lawyer when you're not in the criminal legal field in your first paragraph. It's very difficult for a family trying to hire a lawyer to assess the situation well enough to know whether you need a fighter, a pleader, a big city lawyer, or other.

Here's my suggestion if you should find yourself in this situation, or find somebody you care about in this situation - hire an attorney just for arraignment. Get some breathing room so you're not locked into the first attorney you meet. You can always hire that attorney for the full trial, but it gives you a chance to do your homework and perhaps find the attorney that fits your crime.

Here's the thing - lots of crimes can be handled by just about any criminal law attorney. Low level felonies, most misdemeanors - those can be handled by most attorneys. the question is whether you intend to fight or plead. This overall thread deals with a guy who knows he's going to plead, so it's an interesting read.

I always suggest people interview at least 3 attorneys before settling on one. You are interviewing them for a job, so you need to actually ask questions and make them work for the job - what should you expect? son wants to fight, how many trial have you done this year? last year? etc, etc, etc.

Now, how do you arrive at 3 attorneys? It's complicated. You need to use all of your resources. Talk with your family attorney - the person who does your will, or the attorney who did your real estate transaction. That person can make a referral. Talk with your kin - chances are that somebody somewhere messed up and needed an attorney. This is especially true if you have an addict/alcoholic in your family, or somebody with a major mental health issue like bipolar disorder. Ask who they used and if they were satisfied with the representation.

Go to court. The daily docket of each judge (including the one your son already knows his next hearing is with) is available. See which attorneys are there every single day and which attorneys aren't. Go and watch the attorneys who are there. See who shows up prepared and who doesn't. See who gets under the prosecutor's skin and who has a great relationship with the prosecutor (and interview them both). See who the judge treats normally and who the judge is about ready to call on the carpet - it's usually evident for weeks before the judge actually blows up at the attorney (it's a very strange experience when the judge is blowing up at opposing counsel and all you can do to help your client out is to bow your head and try not to respond). Interview a couple whom you've watched in court.

Avvo - simple criminal law matters are usually handled by junior associates with a canned answer modified to the person or question. Most rating services are junk.

Do go to the bar or Supreme Court - whomever's handling licensing in your state - make sure you do your due diligence there. Make sure that the attorney is licensed and in good standing. Make sure the attorney (not the PD, but private attorney) has malpractice insurance. Check to see if there have been any disciplinary actions against the attorney and if there are any open complaints. Many licensing boards are very open about these things, and you can find them online. Some require a phone call. Check.

Now there are some cases that require specialization. While just about any attorney can handle a DUI-1, beyond that, you need an attorney who does DUI and DUI related law. Sex offenses require a lawyer versed in sex offense law. Murders, especially in death penalty jurisdictions, require specialization - you're going to wind up with at least 2 trial attorneys and 1 mitigation specialist and this should be explained to you up front, and explained as part of the costs. If there is a significant issue - significant psychological problems, intersexuality or gender identity issues, major medical issues like pending liver transplant or something, or anything else where you have to say, hey, this isn't your run of the mill defendant (none are "run of the mill" but some stand out - PTSD veterans, people with major disabilities, illiteracy, etc) then you may need specialization.

But specialization is good because generally you have more resources to find an attorney. Dual citizenship? Make sure you talk with the consulate of the dual country and see if they can make a referral. Lambda Legal is great for LGBTQ defendants. Contacting your tribe for referrals can be a wonderful resource. NAMI for many mental health issues - all of that can be very helpful in finding a lawyer.

Now, law firm size. A solo should be up front on their ability to handle a huge case. Huge case in criminal law means something extraordinarily complicated - some white collar stuff, murder 1, etc. Many solos cannot deal with such cases simply because of their complexity - it outmatches the resources that that particular firm may have. Solos can be wonderful for other cases (though admittedly, we do handle some very complex stuff as court appointeds, usually in tandem with another court appointed in a court appointed partnering that can get weird). Many smaller cases can be quite effectively handled by a solo, especially a specialized solo or a solo with a ton of experience in your type of case. For instance, I've got a ton of experience in sex offenses. I think judges just started appointing me to them early because I was the only woman doing criminal work in several jurisdictions. The judges wanted either to drive me out, or give the defendant the benefit of sitting next to a woman during the trial instead of sitting next to some huge guy. Anyway, talk with me about your sex offense and I'm pretty confident - I have a list of experts I can call on, a few investigators who contract with me case to case, and a ton of experience. My costs to you are much lower than the big firm alternatives, and again, female talking for usually a grown man. So, solo can be a great thing. The solo should be upfront and say whether or not s/he can handle the case.

Small boutique firms can be great, too. Like solos, they're much more personal. But, they usually have a small constellation of lawyers working together generally in the same area of law. It's awfully nice to have older and younger attorneys to talk with about your case - the brainstorming thing can be really helpful. Costs are a bit higher than solos, but there are similarities with the solos, and people don't feel as lost in the crowd the way they can with big firms.

Big first can handle just about anything. I mean anything. I'm talking your DUI through setting up a trust as a result of your family member's conviction and huge restitution bill that would take several lifetimes to satisfy - a trust can be used to pay out the bulk of your estate after death without it going to restitution (hint, see your estates attorney every 5 years or with every major change of life. A child going to prison is a major change of life). It can even help with your publication rights and intellectual property rights issues when you decide to publish your story about puppies and pudding or whatever you're interested in writing about. But, big mean you pay through the nose, you may have to wander through several stories or more of building before you find your attorney's office, and they probably won't know your name until they pull up your file. You can get excellent representation at a big firm, and they should be able to handle any scale of case in their criminal law division, but people complain about costs and anonymity.

Hopefully that helps a bit.
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  #2  
Old 10-29-2016, 10:27 AM
LadyRed39 LadyRed39 is offline
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How do I choose an attorney to handle an appeal in a district known to affirm the original conviction? He has been appointed counsel but my research has yet to uncover any reversals. I have 2 other attorneys in mind but money is an issue and the only way to afford such counsel is by taking out a loan. I'm not wealthy by any means, life on the gulf coast is expensive and I work 6 days a week to survive. My fiance is currently incarcerated in Ohio (Lorain) and we have about 3 weeks to file the appeal.
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Old 10-29-2016, 11:59 AM
fbopnomore fbopnomore is offline
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Most appeals fail, so it's up to you to decide to go with appointed counsel, or borrow enough money to hire a private lawyer. If the end result won't change, which sounds likely, my advice is to save your money.
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Old 10-29-2016, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by LadyRed39 View Post
How do I choose an attorney to handle an appeal in a district known to affirm the original conviction? He has been appointed counsel but my research has yet to uncover any reversals. I have 2 other attorneys in mind but money is an issue and the only way to afford such counsel is by taking out a loan. I'm not wealthy by any means, life on the gulf coast is expensive and I work 6 days a week to survive. My fiance is currently incarcerated in Ohio (Lorain) and we have about 3 weeks to file the appeal.
An appeal cannot be completed in 3 weeks.

Timing for Appeal:

1. notice of appeal (usually fairly short - 30 days or less)
2. time for the Appellant's brief starts to run - usually about 6 months
3. record is prepared. Because the record takes forever, Appellant usually files for an extension of time - another 6 months. Maybe two extensions.
4. Appellee files its brief - 6 months, maybe with an extension or two
5. Appellant files a reply - usually another 6 months, maybe extensions.

You're not going to find a lot of successful appeals. it's the nature of things. The appellant's briefs that are really good and capture some real issues are the ones that get oral arguments. You can look for those.

You can also find out what issue are in your case that are hot button issues for that court and for other courts around the US and US territories. But, this usually requires a command of appellate issue spotting in the record as well as knowledge of the major issues around the country and in your court. For instance, my understanding is that you're just looking at sex offenses. Stop. If there's a confession issue, you need to look at confessions no matter what the case. Sex offenses have a few special rules, and hitting the statutes to know those is good, but those are the only issues, if present in your case, that require offense specific searches.

As to how to find an attorney? Same way as listed above. Go in with the knowledge that your best chance of winning was at trial. Each level of appeal substantially decreases your chances of winning. Once you win an appeal, you generally go back to the beginning and get a new trial. And the whole nightmare starts all over again.
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Old 10-29-2016, 04:33 PM
LadyRed39 LadyRed39 is offline
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I'm quite literally 1000 miles away from him, he's in Ohio I'm on the Alabama coast. I have to do everything online or on the phone. And yes this concerns sex crimes and I am becoming more familiar with those laws and such. In the event of a new trial, I feel like a better attorney would win this. The public defender was less than efficient.
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Old 02-20-2017, 07:27 AM
Arkady Arkady is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yourself View Post
An appeal cannot be completed in 3 weeks.

Timing for Appeal:

1. notice of appeal (usually fairly short - 30 days or less)
2. time for the Appellant's brief starts to run - usually about 6 months
3. record is prepared. Because the record takes forever, Appellant usually files for an extension of time - another 6 months. Maybe two extensions.
4. Appellee files its brief - 6 months, maybe with an extension or two
5. Appellant files a reply - usually another 6 months, maybe extensions.

You're not going to find a lot of successful appeals. it's the nature of things. The appellant's briefs that are really good and capture some real issues are the ones that get oral arguments. You can look for those.

You can also find out what issue are in your case that are hot button issues for that court and for other courts around the US and US territories. But, this usually requires a command of appellate issue spotting in the record as well as knowledge of the major issues around the country and in your court. For instance, my understanding is that you're just looking at sex offenses. Stop. If there's a confession issue, you need to look at confessions no matter what the case. Sex offenses have a few special rules, and hitting the statutes to know those is good, but those are the only issues, if present in your case, that require offense specific searches.

As to how to find an attorney? Same way as listed above. Go in with the knowledge that your best chance of winning was at trial. Each level of appeal substantially decreases your chances of winning. Once you win an appeal, you generally go back to the beginning and get a new trial. And the whole nightmare starts all over again.
I highly recommend hiring the same lawyer who did your criminal case in the first place (unless he did an entirely bad job). He or she already knows your case. Appeals are time consuming processes that eat up lots of billable hours - so that's kind of double jeopardy.
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Old 02-20-2017, 12:26 PM
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I highly recommend hiring the same lawyer who did your criminal case in the first place (unless he did an entirely bad job). He or she already knows your case. Appeals are time consuming processes that eat up lots of billable hours - so that's kind of double jeopardy.
no, no, no, no.

The person who did the trial work rarely does appeals, is too close to the case to see the real problems, and cannot argue ineffective assistance of counsel.

When an appeals attorney takes on a case, the first call is to the trial attorney to ask about his/her experiences, what problems s/he feels have traction, and what s/he feels is important to know.

Trial skills and appellate skills are very different. Hiring the trial attorney? It means either you hired an appellate attorney to handle a trial, or you're hiring a trial attorney to handle an appeal. Not a good combination.

The first trial I lost, I did the whole notice of appeal and asked the judge to be appointed to the appeal since I knew the case forward and back, handled all the motions, and was in court every time the case was in court. I had a ton invested in that case. The judge said no, and boy was I pissed. Later, the judge took me aside and told me why appointing the trial lawyer was almost exclusively a bad idea. IT took that conversation for me to step back and realize that the best thing for my client was to graciously work with the appellate attorney when the appellate attorney called. This is what I did. This is what most people should do.

And remember, your trial attorney cannot claim ineffective assistance on the appeal without a major conflict of interest.
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