Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Do Public Defenders Defend Droopy Drawers Cases?

In nothing else, Lehigh County Chief Public Defender Kimberly Makoul is the Clarence Darrow of droopy pants. I'm sure many of you followed her stirring, though unsuccessful, defense of Adam "Droopy Drawers" Dennis. He was fined $50 yesterday by District Judge Wayne Maura, for failing to keep his pants up. He thought Dennis was being disrespectful.

There is no record of the case against Dennis at Pa. Docket Sheets. I'm unsure whether he was even charged criminally, although that appears likely. A few years ago, the rules of criminal procedure were revised to allow District Judges to impose fines and even 30 days of jail time for contempt.

I'll refrain for now from weighing in on whether there's a constitutional right to wear droopy drawers to court. But I do question whether the Chief Public Defender of Lehigh County should get her own underwear in a knot over this matter.

One of the most common complaints I hear about public defenders is that defendants languish in jail, often on matters that could be quickly resolved, before ever getting to see one. Also, I've never heard of a public defender's office providing representation on a summary offense, if the contempt charge against Dennis is in fact a criminal charge.

According to The Lehigh County Public Defender webpage, "We represent eligible individuals in all misdemeanors and felonies, excluding first offense Driving Under the Influence charges." (emphasis added). So why is Makoul representing someone on what is at most a summary offense? It would seem that, under her own department's guidelines, Makoul should have recommended that Dennis seek private counsel.

I believe the ACLU or some private attorney would gladly do this pro bono. But I believe the involvement of the Public Defender's office took it away from its core mission.

As for me, I bought a new pair of dress pants and a dress shirt tomorrow. I'm scheduled to cover a naturalization ceremony, and don't want to be hauled off.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dude! At least she tried. At least there is effort for the taxpayer dollar.

As you might suspect, I'd rather there not be such an animal. However, as I accept the reality that I've lost that battle forever, good to see a feeder doing more than notch the belt for zero effort and lunch with the one who ate his/hers.

Well done, young lady (relatively speaking of course).

Well done.

-Clem

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is a policy decision by the PD's office. The PD's office has no obligation to provide representation for summary offense because there's an unspoken custom that despite the possibility of jail-time, MDJ's will not impose jail-time for summary offenses. If there is a likelihood of jail-time then a public defender should be appointed.

Just like the PD had no obligation to involve itself in summaries, neither does the DA. But when the DA does involve its office in summary offense policy, such as 1543(b)s not being eligible for house arrest or for amendment to 1543(a)s at the direction of the DA, the PD's office now has a duty to involve itself in these cases because despite being summaries, they still carry mandatory jail sentences. (Right to counsel presents itself when jail-time, however short, is a likelihood)

Not that a 1543 is at issue here, its just an easy example and yet PDs still do not get appointed on them. When the real possibility of jail time exists or when the DA's office involves itself in MDJ policy the PD should become involved.

As chief PD, if Makoul believed there was a real possibility of jail-time, she had an ethical obligation to represent the defendant or have a staff member do so if the defendant requested counsel and was eligible.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't think there was any question of jail time bc the fine was only $50. It seems that Maura was more interested in making a point than sending someone away, and that Makoul caught caught up in it. She told the press she will likely appeal.Now that we know no jail time is involved, I believe further involvement by her office would be inappropriate. It is an interesting case, and one that does not require a great deal of work. I believe she'd have no problem getting a private attorney to do this pro bono.

Thanks very much for your comment.

Anonymous said...

It seems Dick's Daughter didn't learn from Her Father.Someone at 5th. and Hamilton will have to explain budgets to Her/Whats next underage drinking and parking tickets

Anonymous said...

I need eye bleach after viewing that photo. No more selfies Bernie, please.

Anonymous said...

Good for the Chief PD. Some Magisterial Judges are quite indifferent to the rule of law (let's not even start with how they are influenced by the fact most of them are ex-law enforcement). Maybe if they know someone like Makoul is watching them the loose cannons will curb their abuses. An injustice is an injustice, whether it results in jail time or not. And the thought that a private attorney will go up against the court system "pro bono" and risk suffering the consequences is quite naïve.

Anonymous said...

I think the point here is it is time for this younger generation of ours to start learning respect and decency, who really cares about the over paid lawyers the point Judge Maura got across is YOU will dres approprately in His courtroom....



Ret 180

Peter J.Cochran said...

Bernie, I agree with this Magistrate. Demeanor in a court- room should be different than Dorney Park. These 'clowns' are in contempt of basic social rules,and know it,it's in your face-taxpayers. They want you to know they think they are 'hoodies' as a survival demonstration . This defendant most like has no respect for anything and will end up dead or dying before he is ever productive.TOO BAD,this is the reality show we pay for.Real bad asses are on the battlefields, these are punks.

Anonymous said...

Do not infer that you knew Attorney Richard Makoul by writing "Dick's daughter". It seems to me , that he taught her to
Fight for what is right.

Anonymous said...

I think she made the right decision to handle this case. Sometimes, going outside the stated priorities are necessary in order to have an impact on the overall system. It seems to me that she believes strongly that the outcome of this case is egregious enough--and probably not a huge investment of her time--but will have an impact on the policies of other MDJs in the county, and in the Lehigh Valley. That is a good use of her time. I would give her enough credit to believe that she didn't let some misdemeanor or felony defendant "languish" in jail while she was in MDJ Maura's courtroom.

Anonymous said...

Tell me im right to believe the kid would also be chastised and asked to leave if he showed up to an African American community church service.

Anonymous said...

So low riding pants on a kid that show undergarments are disrespectful and verboten, but a 60 year old judge with a ridiculously jet-black dyed ponytail down the middle of his back is quite alright.

What do you want to bet that if a teen-aged Maura found himself in court when he was this kid's age looking like he does now (with a ridiculous ponytail), a judge would have hassled him in the same manner.

Seems very generational and very petty and a jurist should be above this. The lady on the courthouse building wears a blindfold after all.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Anon 9;46 Your question aimed at my statement may be well founded. However,If this judge felt the kid was over the line under the conditions then he really must have been,don't you think? The kid should be taken out on a tour of the area.He should probably be assigned a mentor to demonstrate to him one to one, that nobody with their pants down under their gluteus maximus has a job and most will find TROUBLE, have criminal records ,ect. Then show him what a welder can make ,where a locale water company laborer lives,all have belts on their pants and how being productive can help you live past 26 years old.Otherwise all is lost for him . See you later Bernie ,what to see the new shirt.The only GOOD thing about defendants with their pants down IS when they pull them up ,they 'broadcast' they going to run.

Bernie O'Hare said...

9:46, I pretty much buy into your argument. My only point is that the PD office should not be involved in this matter.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"No more selfies Bernie, please."

So I guess Vanity Fair is out of the question.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I think she made the right decision to handle this case. Sometimes, going outside the stated priorities are necessary in order to have an impact on the overall system."

I see. So when she needs more money for her department, she can make that argument to LC Comm'rs. I'm sure they'll agree.

Not.

Bernie O'Hare said...

". It seems to me , that he taught her to Fight for what is right."

Good for her. I get that. But we the taxpayers are paying for it in a case where nobody is going to jail.

Anonymous said...

Many of these "little judges" are still folks with an electable name and not much else. They have some big heads.

There are some that after leaving the job still want to be called "judge". The ego exceeds the talent and skill.

Anonymous said...

What happened to "justice is blind".
In the sixties a pony tail wearing male would have also been criminalized.

Anonymous said...

If appearance is punishable, they should put bars on Walmart.