Public defenders get the job done

What kind of lawyers become public defenders? Some of Maryland's best.

In response to Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller's concerns over the effectiveness of public defender representation in Maryland, we PDs may be overworked, underfunded and sometimes "out gunned" by the state in criminal cases ("Maryland public defenders juggle heavy caseloads; critics say indigent clients suffer," Aug. 21) but speaking for city PDs (the ones I see every day), we still do a damn good job, not only with what we've got, but we are truly superior lawyers.

Tenacious advocacy is a pillar in our mission statement from the top of our agency, and that is what you'll get. We are criminal law experts and the unheralded backbone of the justice system. Think about it: We work in the same courts every day, which means we understand how things get done better than anyone. We know all of the judges and the state's attorneys and can tell you how they tend to act. Fact is, we handle the majority of criminal cases in the city and conduct most of the trials. So judges look to us for advice on the law and on procedural issues because they trust our judgment. They also lean on us for help such as in giving the advice of rights litany to our clients during guilty pleas or in suggested instructions to aid a jury in deliberations.

We don't pick our cases or clients as we take what and who is assigned to us. One thing we did choose, however, is this profession. On any given day, if you peek your head in a criminal courtroom in Baltimore, there's a good chance you'll find a PD standing up for a client.

Todd Oppenheim, Baltimore

The writer is a felony trial attorney in the Baltimore City Office of the Public Defender.

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