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How to Defend a Criminal Client

Lukacris (young attorney) walks into senior attorney's [Atticus] office and following colloquy occurs:

Lukacris: Why do all of your clients receive evaluations of some sort?

Atticus: What do you mean?

Lukacris: I have noticed that you routinely have clients evaluated for one thing or another!

Atticus: Don't you?

Lukacris: No way! I am a trial attorney. I put all of my effort and thought into taking every case to trial!

Atticus: What if you lose?

Lukacris: What do you mean? That is a defeatist attitude!

Atticus: What percentage of all charged cases ends up in a sentencing?

Lukacris: I don't know but I am sure you will tell me.

Atticus: More than 90% of all charged defendants will likely stand before a sentencing Judge for sentencing. And if you put all of your effort into trial preparation, what information do you present to the Court at sentencing?

Lukacris: So you put all your effort into sentencing?

Atticus: Of course not, I defend the same way you do: get the reports, do follow-up investigation with our investigator, review all legal issues, file motions where appropriate, prepare jury instructions for possible defenses. You know the drill!

Lukacris: Where do the evaluations come in?

Atticus: I put each case on a dual track - one for trial and the other for mitigation or sentencing.

Lukacris: What sort of evaluations do you do?

Atticus: Whatever is necessary. Chemical dependency if alcohol or other drugs are an issue; anger management if force or threats are involved; sexual offender assessment if that is alleged; general mental health assessment in appropriate cases and others as needed. In some cases, more than one evaluation is warranted.

Lukacris: I get it now. You hand pick experts that will say what you want them to say!

Atticus: Charles Dickens once wrote: "the law is an ass!" but I think he must have been referring to lawyers, not the law! What good is an evaluation from a defense hack? No one will pay attention to that, including the prosecutor or the Judge. We only pick experts that have credibility with all in the criminal justice system!

Lukacris: How do you find these experts?

Atticus: When I started in defense practice, many years ago, I reached out to many people and simply asked their qualifications and whether they would be interested in doing this work, including testifying if necessary. Some were, and others weren't. Some were not qualified. I have been working with several of them for many years.

Lukacris: Do you do this only on felonies? What about lesser charges?

Atticus: I do this on all cases, felony or misdemeanor, where there is a need.

Lukacris: What if the client is later found not guilty? Or case dismissed?

Atticus: As Will Shakespeare said; then the client is "twice blessed." Once by the dismissal and the second by getting a necessary evaluation and, if recommended, treatment.

Lukacris: Who is that guy? This all makes sense. I will give it a try!

Atticus: John Mortimer wrote: "No brilliance is needed in the law. Nothing but common sense, and relatively clean fingernails."


Attorney Bruce Quick concentrates his practice in criminal defense. He received his undergraduate degree in 1975 from North Dakota State University and graduated with distinction from the University of North Dakota Law School in 1978.

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