Somewhere in America
Somewhere in America a young person has just accepted an offer to work for a public defender office. She’s wondering whether she can handle the caseload that she has heard so much about.
Somewhere in America a more experienced public defender has just accepted a position as the Chief Defender in an office where workloads are too high. She wonders to herself whether there’s anyone who can help her.
Somewhere in America is a county official wondering how to set up a better public defender office, seeking to know whether there are standards for a public defense system.
Somewhere in America is a supervisor who has been approached by one of his lawyers who says that he has too many cases. The supervisor wonders what he should do next.
Somewhere in America is a Public Defender Commission member who has just reviewed the caseload figures for the year and is alarmed that the attorneys in the system have too many cases. The commission member wonders whether she has any responsibility for the caseloads being handled by the attorneys in the system.
Somewhere in America is a trial judge who seen the trials declining in her court while at the same time the rocket docket is speeding up and the complaints by clients are increasing. The judge wonders whether he has any responsibility for doing something about it.
Each of those people had a resource in Norm Lefstein, a public defense giant who just passed. Norm was involved in almost all of the standards that have been written in the last 40 years pertaining to public defense and particularly to workloads. He literally wrote the book. These accomplishments are detailed in this touching tribute to him written by Steve Hanlon, his longtime friend and co-worker, which can be found here. https://www.publicdefenders.us/blog_home.asp?Display|EQUALS|801.
The NAPD Steering Committee reacted immediately. Some of their observations are here:
Doug Wilson. “Sad news. Great advocate for our clients and indigent defense.”
Mark Stephens. “On two occasions our office filed caseload litigation. Both times Norm was our expert. My recollection is that he did it for free both times. He was all in and was a very powerful expert witness. The CLO owes Norm. He'll be missed. One of the good guys died today.”
Tina Luongo. “Very sad day for the public defender world. He screamed about caseload relief when it wasn’t popular to do so. He will be missed.”
Carlos Martinez. “He was an essential witness/advisor on our caseload litigation as well. Just as important, he challenged us all to be guardians of the right to counsel and our ethical obligations. An irreplaceable giant has left us today. May he rest in peace.”
Kate Mason. “Very sad. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, colleagues, and public defense community. Rest well.”
Derwyn Bunton. “As a law student, I remember Bryan Stevenson commanding us to bear witness to injustice. To bear witness as a way to face the injustice, tell the stories of those affected, and use our positions/training to eliminate the injustice.
As if to personify Bryan’s call, Norm was Gideon’s Witness (before there was Gideon). Championing the belief that poor people do not abandon their right to justice and fairness when they enter a courtroom. Norm faced injustice as an expert in groundbreaking litigation here in Louisiana, and like many jurisdictions, we owe him. We lost a great one today, destined for the Mt. Rushmore of our profession.”
Patrice Fulcher. “Extremely sad news, He was a truly a change agent, and champion for justice. My heart goes out to his family and our community.”
Anthony Benedetti. “Terribly sad news and I echo the thoughts and feelings of all who have written. Norm was truly a giant in indigent defense and was very helpful to us in Massachusetts also. He was also simply a great guy and will be missed.”
Amy Campanelli. “Such a loss for all of us, our clients, and the communities we serve across this country. What a great man, leader, and forward thinker to help us forge ahead always.”
Norm, we will go on without you now with your work as our guide.