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30 Loy. L. A. L. Rev. 59 (1996-1997)
Responsibilities of a Criminal Defense Attorney

handle is hein.journals/lla30 and id is 87 raw text is: RESPONSIBILITIES OF A CRIMINAL
Gerald B. Lefcourt*
Our perspective as criminal defense lawyers is often based on
a pivotal experience. Mine was as a law school honors program
participant, sent to work with Legal Aid Society lawyers-New
York City's public defenders. I was assigned to help a young law-
yer handling arraignments. In New York City that meant a daily
crush of cases. His job was to seek bail as each defendant entered
the system. In disgusting pens holding as many as forty prisoners, I
would interview clients. I was the first person many prisoners saw
after they had spent up to four days waiting to appear before the
The holding pens were filled with huddling defendants, most
of whom were standing because there was only one bench. Vir-
tually the entire population of the pens was nonwhite and poor,
without the resources or stable families to allow them bail. Most
were in shock or panic, yelling questions and begging for help.
What am I charged with? When will I ever get out? Can you
call my mother? What if I didn't do it; will they still keep me?
Will you call my boss because if I don't show up I'll lose my job?
I came to see that most of them were not really represented at
all. Not only would they not make bail, but most would ultimately
plead guilty to something, anything, just to move out of the system.
I realized that with a lawyer who had a few days to spend with the
client instead of a few minutes, a proper fight could be waged,
both to get the defendant out on bail and ultimately, to get a fa-
vorable disposition. In many cases defendants would not have
ended up with criminal records, a millstone that serves to keep the
underclasses as underclasses.
I realized that the Legal Aid attorneys, like their counterparts
across the country, were not properly trained, had no resources,
and were, frankly, overwhelmed. The number of defendants was
* J.D., Law Offices of Lefcourt & Dratel, P.C., New York City, New York.

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