Attorney Burnout? It’s Time To Walk Away.

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

Patrick testifying at the State Capitol in Harrisburg. Hearing on SB 3, Medical Marijuana, February 25, 2015.

Maybe after so many years of defending the accused, one can get jaded about the whole process. Burnout is certainly a factor in any high stress occupation, so it’s understandable how someone can ‘run out of gas’.

That’s the time to walk away, especially when your occupation includes defending the rights of the accused. The last thing someone in that situation needs is an attorney who just doesn’t care anymore.

You can’t fight for someone’s freedom if there’s no fight left in you.

I am currently working on an appeal that involved a first-time offender being advised to plead guilty to a felony Possession With Intent Charge at Pittsburgh City Court’s EDP exactly 6 days after the kid was charged.

Yep – first time offender is now a convicted felon and his lawyer didn’t even care enough to get a crime lab on the sheet of acid that the client swears was bunk.

I have another client who went through a similar situation in Florida many years ago. He was caught with a very small amount of cocaine. In fact, it was just a vial with some residue in it. That was enough for a possession charge, which in Florida is considered a felony.

Since he was driving at the time, his car was seized– a forerunner of the abuse we’ve seen in the seizure and forfeiture laws that were put in place as a weapon against drug traffickers. Those laws quickly became a weapon being used against average citizens, often with no conviction at all.

He hired an attorney, and ended up being tossed on the conveyor belt of justice. He may as well have had no representation at all, because the $2500 he paid (1987 dollars, btw) was a complete waste. His attorney had him accept a plea, for a minuscule amount of a drug that is as common in Florida as grains of sand on the beach.

No questions were raised at all. Why was he pulled over in the first place? What gave the arresting officer ‘probable cause’ to search the accused and his vehicle, in what actually started as a common traffic stop? What was the substance in the vial? There was no lab report at all. It could have been powdered sugar, for all the arresting officer could verify at the time of the arrest.

Instead, his attorney took a sizable fee and did… nothing.

That one mistake would follow my client for the rest of his life, but his attorney got paid. So, there’s that…

An attorney who stops caring about his cases, and is only interested in collecting fees or quickly getting rid of a case in order to move on to the next one, is someone who does harm in a situation where they are supposed to be helping. That is not justice.

So, if you are an attorney, and you get to the point where your “give a fuck” threshold is so low that you tell a first time offender to plead to a felony without even bothering to look at the EVIDENCE, then its time to rip up the law license.

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