Public Defenders – ‘True Believers in Justice’ –

OTHERWISE: ‘True Believers in Justice’ –

Fifty years after Gideon v. Wainwright promised effective defense to al charged with crime, filmmaker Dawn Porter follows Travis Williams,  a Georgia public defender, as he struggles with inadequate resources, to defend his indigent clients.  5,000 PD’s defend 5,000,000 indigent people charged with crime every year.  He gets help from  Gideon’s Promise which trains public defenders – the most important civil rights workers in our legal system which incarcerates more people for longer than any other country in the world. Click HERE for video– gwc

Taking Attendance

I like to take attendance.  My rationale is that students should be held to a standard of professional responsibility in a course on that subject.  I permit students to email my assistant in advance of class if they have a good faith and justifiable reason for missing class — and I trust that the students are honest in their excuses.

The mechanics of taking attendance, though, can be challenging.  Before I switched to TWEN with the casebook, I used clickers for questions and the clicker program provided an attendance function.  I do not believe TWEN offers that option (but I would be happy to be corrected on this) and taking attendance in a large class is otherwise quite challenging.  I was very glad to receive this guidance from the Fordham Center for Teaching Excellence:


If you’d like to record attendance using an electronic device, like your smartphone, you can do so easily using Google Docs, a free part of the Google account that all faculty have with their Gmail.

The first step is to create a form, with each student’s name as a question and multiple choice buttons labelled “present” or “absent,” and perhaps also “tardy” or “excused.” You can always return to edit the form later, if students add or drop the course.

The form saves each submission to a spreadsheet that timestamps the entry. You can email the form to yourself or embed it in a webpage. If you have a smartphone or a tablet, like an iPad, you can bookmark the form and record attendance in the cloud using your mobile device.

We created a five-minute screencast on YouTube that walks through setting up the form:  We recommend viewing the clip in the large player or in full-screen mode.

Should TWEN quizzes be mandatory?

Today, I was discussing with an adopter the question of whether the TWEN quizzes should be mandatory.  Last semester, I did require that before each class students had to answer on TWEN the quiz questions found in the text assignment for that class.  See my Fall 2012 Syllabus.  When reading the course evaluations, I learned that some students resented the requirement because the requirement resulted in their spending significantly more time on the Professional Responsibility course than on their other lecture courses.  While I believe that answering all the TWEN quizzes before class (and learning the correct answers) helps students learn the material, the primary purpose of the quizzes to provide students with a tool for self-assessment.  Accordingly, balancing the anxieties faced by today’s law students and the benefits of the quizzes, I plan in the future to encourage the students to take the TWEN quizzes before each class, but not require them.

Funding forces PD’s into ethical dilemmas – Heather Baxter

OTHERWISE: Funding forces PDs into ethical dilemmas – Heather Baxter.


Budget cuts have had a devastating effect on public defenders and their ability to effectively represent indigent clients, mostly in the form of increasing caseloads. Much has been written about the effect these excessive caseloads have had on indigent defendants’ right to counsel. This article, instead, focuses on how excessive caseloads are placing public defenders in ethical dilemmas. Public defenders are bound by the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, but these high caseloads are making it increasingly difficult for them to meet these required ethical standards. Specifically, it is more challenging for an attorney to represent indigent clients diligently and competently when dealing with caseload numbers well beyond the recommended levels. The author discusses why the solutions being offered by the American Bar Association‘s Formal Opinion 06-441 are not tenable and concludes that true reform in indigent defense is the only way to alleviate the excessive caseloads.”

When Death Row Lawyers Stumble, Clients Take the Fall –

Adam Liptak, the Times fine legal affairs correspondent, asks `why do we saddle clients with their lawyers mistakes?’  Because the lawyer is the client’s agent, is the short and unsatisfactory answer.  Liptak explores the problem in the shocking case of Ronald Smith (below) and in a fuller discussion of the issues in a recent issue of the Michigan Law Review – Agency and Equity: Why Do We Blame Clients for Their Lawyers’ Mistakes? -Liptak proposes an abandonment exception to the general rule that a principal bears the consequences of the agent’s default.  – gwc

When Death Row Lawyers Stumble, Clients Take the Fall –

Quiz Questions on TWEN and Student Assessment

Another note as we begin the new semester:  All the quiz questions in the casebook have been loaded on to TWEN.  If you are using TWEN, you can ask your TWEN representative to send the questions to the TWEN page for your class.  You can then use the groupings of questions we suggest or you can create your own.  Your students will be able to answer the questions pursuant to directions you create on TWEN, and you and the students will be able to assess their performance.  We do not recommend that you use the questions for formal, graded assessment, but rather as one method for helping you and the students assess how well they have mastered the material as individuals and as a class.

Revitalizing the Lawyer-Poet — What Lawyers Can Learn From Rock and Roll DVD

As we begin a new semester, I wanted to remind adopters of the casebook (and anyone who is interested) that the DVD for Revitalizing the Lawyer-Poet:  What Lawyers Can Learn from Rock and Roll is available for free.  If you would like a copy, please contact Emma Mercer at  You can obtain the Teacher’s Guide from SSRN.

Teacher’s Guide DVD Cover

F. Lee Bailey: Lack of Candor Costs him Maine Bar Admission

OTHERWISE: F. Lee Bailey: Lack of Candor Costs him Maine Bar Admission.

I’ve looked at the Maine Board of Bar Examiners 5-4 opinion and done a short account of the majority decision denying and the dissenters recommendation for admission.  I think the dissent gives it pedagogic value – though students will have difficulty identifying with Bailey. (Arrogance like his comes later in life, and hopefully not at all.)  But there is room for debate.  The last word will be that of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court since the Board decision is presumably subject to petition for review.

There is a link in the post above to the Board’s decision.

OTHERWISE: America’s Retreat From the Death Penalty –

OTHERWISE: America’s Retreat From the Death Penalty –

We often correct those who say a lawyer is bound to zealously represent her client.  But New Jersey’s repeal of the death penalty was the result of zeal – by lawyers and judges with an extraordinary dedication in the best tradition of the profession.  Click though to this post for that story.