COMPLAINTS ABOUT LEGAL SERVICES
Consistent with policies of the La Public Defender Board, the 15th Judicial District has a complaint policy. Simply put, we want to know what the client thinks about the services offered. Complaints are taken only in writing, and on a specific form which identifies the case, the client and the issues of concern.
Claims about Case Outcome
Complaints about counsel which are considered don’t include simply not getting a result the client wants. The system is such that the State has more power than the defense, meaning that the timing of trial, the plea offers made, the charges filed and other matters of importance are not controlled by the defense. So a lawyer cannot guarantee or achieve a specific result.
A complaint that the client did not get a good result is not something the office can help with, unless the reason is that the lawyer did not investigate or otherwise perform the function of a zealous attorney.
Complaints about bad news
A common complaint we get is that the lawyer does not seem to think the case can be “won”. This usually results when the legal opinion given is not optimistic and suggests the client will be convicted. Some times people think the lawyer should always be able to win the case: this is not true. The facts, as demonstrated by the evidence, may be such that the lawyer has a duty to advise the case probably cannot be won at trial.
The lawyer also has a duty to advise the client what the state is willing to offer in a possible disposition of the case. This means the lawyer has to tell the client what the state offers in a plea, and it is not something that should be subject of a complaint because giving the client the real story of his case remains part of the lawyer’s duty.
Strategies and disagreements over strategy
The client has the ultimate choice of whether to plead guilty, whether to take the stand and whether to be tried by judge or jury. The lawyer must advise the client for purposes of making those decisions.
The client does not however, have the ultimate decision on what questions to ask in trial, whether a certain theory of defense should be used, or what the law of the case is. If the client chooses to take over the defense of a case, the client has a Constitutional Right to act as his own lawyer. The client can reject a plea bargain offered by the state, but cannot force any specific plea bargain. The only choices for the client are to accept a plea offer, plead guilty, or plead not guilty and go to trial.