Public Defenseless Explores Appellate Advocacy
This week on the Public Defenseless Podcast, I decided to take a bit of a dive away from state level/line defenders and turn to a woman with decades of experience in Appellate Public Defense work. Frances Smiley-Brown previously served as a as Appellate Public Defender and Chief Administrative Officer for the Colorado State Public Defender Office, and I was thrilled to speak with her about those experiences.
For those not versed in the law, I think the appeals process gives them a sense of security. They may say, "Well if we get something wrong, we can always get it on appeal." Yet those who know how difficult and challenging the appeals/post-conviction process is quickly recognize the error in this thought. No where is this more relevant than in ineffective assistance of counsel claims. This is why I loved speaking with Frances. Peeling back the layers of Appellate law, I hope, get people to realize what should already be obvious: it is absolutely imperative that we get it right at trial, because it is exceedingly difficult to challenge bad lawyering on appeal and in post-conviction.
Furthermore, I really enjoyed the unique insight Frances was able to bring to the table in regards to the development of women's roles in the legal world at large. I think people often forget how inaccessible the law was for women in the not so distant future, and it is always important to get reminders of how far we have come and how far we still need to go from people like Frances who have been instrumental in shaping that growth
Lastly, France is one of many guests that come from the Aurora Public Defense system and there is good reason for that. The structure and success of one of the few municipal level public defender offices in the country is one that all those interested in Public Defense reform should be monitoring closely. The interplay between an office that consistently holds power to account and the commission that supports them at the policy level is one that I will continue to highlight because it is a model that more municipalities need to recognize. As David Carroll often says, "America's dirty little secret is that millions of Americans go without representation in misdemeanor court rooms,", and the main reason for that: a lack of public defender offices and commissions at the municipal level.
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