If you were charged with committing a crime, would you entrust a lawyer who hadn't been in a courtroom for five years with your defense? The Board of Supervisors is asking indigent clients who rely on the services of a public defender to do just that (NCJ Daily, March 9).
The base salary of a supervisor is $87,450 so it is unlikely that any board member would use a public defender. A supervisor charged with a crime could hire a lawyer and pay attorney fees. A poor person charged with a crime relies on a county public defender, who will advocate without charge. The quality of the defense will depend on the experience of the public defender. A public defender who has not been in a courtroom in five years will not provide adequate defense.
The Board of Supervisors recently hired David Marcus, who has not been in a courtroom in five years, as the chief public defender. Previous to not being in a courtroom in the past five years, Mr. Marcus compiled a sketchy record as a public defender in Lassen County. Mr. Marcus was the subject of a "scathing" report from the Lassen County Civil Grand Jury, which alleged that he misused public funds, spent an "estimated 30 to 40 percent of the day at work" and was not "actively engaged in the office's caseload". His resume does not sparkle.
Blowback from the community and a challenge from local attorney Patrik Griego led the supervisors to hold a closed meeting on March 7 to reconsider. They chose to defend the hiring of Mr. Marcus.
So, why did the Board of Supervisors hire David Marcus as the county's chief public defender and then why did they double down on the poor decision to hire him in the first place? Those are good questions.
Marilyn Andrews, Arcata