The ongoing saga of the “unqualified” Public Defender continues to unfold, and things just keep getting uglier. According to the North Coast Journal, not only did all the Defense Attorneys write a letter to the BOS about David Marcus being unfit for the job, but this week the entire non-attorney staff sent a letter to urging them to reconsider their choice. According to the letter, “Marcus has “crippled” the office, has given clients “completely inaccurate” legal advice and “literally attempts to have non-lawyer support staff provide him with answers to legal questions.”
As the lawsuit alleging Marcus doesn’t qualify for the job works its way through the courts, there is one lingering question; why did the board choose Marcus among a field of very qualified local attorneys? The answer may be simply……Maggie Fleming.
Fleming came into office with a “tough on crime” platform. DA Fleming has stayed true to her campaign promises and partly because of that, the courts are backlogged with cases. Not only are the courts backlogged with cases, but because people are taking more cases to trial the costs of doing business have gone way up. Inevitably, when a prosecutor gets “tough on crime” and starts to offer less and less palatable “plea deals”, defendants are going to take the case to a jury. For better or worse that’s the way the way it works with competent defense attorneys, because if the offer is “plea to what you’ve been charged with” then there’s no reason not to take cases all the way to a jury verdict.
However, if an under qualified and/or incompetent or even possibly DA friendly Public Defender gets on the case, they can help “sell” plea agreements to their indigent clients, even if it’s really against the clients best interest. It could be that’s why Marcus was hired. Marcus sold himself as someone who can work with the DA and will lower costs in the Public Defender’s Office. While budgets go up for Law Enforcement, including DA investigators, Marcus will lower the costs of his office by accepting more unjust plea deals and not taking cases to trial. So is that’s why he wasn’t worried that he hadn’t practiced law in the State of California for years? Is it that he wasn’t worried because he knew that he wasn’t really coming in to try cases….he was brought in to lower the costs of the Public Defender’s Office and to make sure that Fleming can continue her “tough on crime” approach to defendants in Humboldt County?
Unfortunately, no one has any idea when this case will be heard by the courts and ruled on. But until Marcus might be removed, being poor and accused of a crime just got a lot more dangerous for Humboldt’s citizens.