How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

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Story
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How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

Post by Story » Thu Jan 28, 2021 12:05 pm

I have always wondered how local prosecutors and public defenders handle such a high number of criminal cases at one time while still fulfilling their ethical and legal duties. Especially compared to their federal counterparts.

Is it because of the nature of the cases? The amount of time you prepare? Something else?

Do you ever take “shortcuts”? Do you ever worry about forming bad habits?

I’m sure this discussion could turn political, but I would really rather focus on the actual nature of the jobs themselves.

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Adso
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Re: How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

Post by Adso » Mon Feb 08, 2021 11:27 pm

Quick answer: you don't. A large portion of cases get pled out via plea bargaining, and if the PD's have their shit together, the push the remaining load of cases to trial, and the DA/SA's drop a share of them and take their best or most serious cases to trial. I was a PD with more than two hundred cases at any given time, and this is always how it worked out. The reason this is is really complicated. But in my very tough-on-crime district, the prosecutors had to take every thing to trial they could, so we were always in court. The government's cases were often laughable, and acquittals were common, especially in marijuana cases and misdemeanor violence cases, which is like half the case load. I guess a large part of the problem can be attributed to being harsh in drug cases and domestic violence cases, the latter being completely understandable but unfortunately legally speaking are just so difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

I ended up leaving to the feds.

Story
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Re: How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

Post by Story » Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:21 am

Do you think you or your colleagues picked up bad habits (such as taking shortcuts) handling so many cases at any given time?

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icechicken
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Re: How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

Post by icechicken » Mon Feb 15, 2021 6:11 pm

Story wrote:
Sun Feb 14, 2021 10:21 am
Do you think you or your colleagues picked up bad habits (such as taking shortcuts) handling so many cases at any given time?
You might get better answers if you clarify what you mean by "shortcuts". Do you mean relying on form/precedent documents? Doing less-thorough research? Making more plea bargains?

Story
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Re: How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

Post by Story » Wed Feb 17, 2021 11:59 am

Sure, I mean those as examples of shortcuts. Also:
Not prepping witnesses as much, relying on just police reports instead of speaking with witnesses yourself, etc.

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Clamence
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Re: How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

Post by Clamence » Thu Feb 25, 2021 10:16 pm

I worked at a PD office that engaged in vertical and horizontal representation to, among other things, better handle the volume of cases.

Horizontal representation means that a different attorney represents a single client at different stages of the case. Attorneys specialize in whatever stage they are assigned to. A handful of attorneys do all the bail motions and arguments, a handful of attorneys do preliminary hearings, a handful do sentencing, etc. The office also assigns vertical representation (a single attorney assigned to a client throughout the entire case and every stage) in addition to horizontal representation if the case is more complex.

These structures of representation allow attorneys to specialize, and they become very efficient and competent at a certain stage, which arguably ends up providing a client with better representation, and it makes the PD's lives easier because they aren't juggling a thousand different issues at once. There are downsides, of course, but this is one way offices and public defenders handle large caseloads.

Story
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Re: How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

Post by Story » Tue Mar 02, 2021 11:21 am

The horizontal representation definitely sounds like a good way to make the work a little more manageable. Never thought of that as a benefit to horizontal representation.

I read this article, and it made me wonder how many other PD offices are going through similar struggles:

https://www.latimes.com/california/stor ... ed-tripled

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Clamence
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Re: How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

Post by Clamence » Tue Mar 02, 2021 4:58 pm

Hopefully some of the PDs here will jump in. I'm no longer working at a PD office.

But, I imagine most counties are experiencing similar struggles. The county I worked in was unable to set cases for trial due to social distancing requirements and the physical space of the courtrooms, but the county also kept bringing in defendants for arraignments as if nothing had changed. This understandably led to a backlog, with an equal amount of cases coming in, but fewer cases closing.

Also, to answer your earlier question about shortcuts, the simple answer is yes, some PDs take up bad habits like the ones you mentioned. However, the extent to which PDs take on bad habits greatly depends on the county and the office. Some counties have offices that simply don't give a damn. Other offices are firmly committed to zealous representation, and they do not tolerate attorneys with bad habits.

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bikeflip
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Re: How do local prosecutors and PDs handle so many cases at one time?

Post by bikeflip » Tue Mar 02, 2021 6:19 pm

Yeah, the backlog struggle is real across the board, save for (maybe) the private defense bar. Even then it depends on several factors like your advertising budget, reputation, luck, court appointments, experience, etc.

As for habits, various PD offices have various ways to train. In Colorado, the State PD office has several trainings throughout your first few years. If you can't pass some of these bigger trainings, you can try again. Fail again and well...

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