In April of 2012 I posted a blog advocating the theory that, in general, hiring an attorney will result in better outcomes than using a court appointed attorney. I stated that this is not true in all cases but as a matter of practicality, a retained attorney will do more work and investigation than a court appointed attorney because the retained attorney is being paid more. Additionally, the court appointed attorney is often underpaid and therefore even more likely not to perform all of the work necessary to provide the best defense. At least one attorney took offense to my post and communicated her attitude toward my opinion. I responded that while I agree that many court appointed attorneys work very hard for their clients, many don’t. Additionally, most court appointed attorneys have so many cases it is impossible for them to devote the time necessary effectively defend all of them. A case in point was recently ruled upon by the Michigan Supreme Court wherein a court appointed attorney did not do their job.
In 2004, then 68 year old Jacob Trakhtenberg was accused of sexually touching his 8 year old daughter and charged with five counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct in the Second Degree in Oakland County. Jacob, a Russian Immigrant and retired Chrysler engineer, stated that he did not want to hire an attorney because he was adamant about his innocence and was “not about to pay a dime to defend himself”. He requested and received a court appointed attorney who was extremely deficient in her duties to him. An Oakland County Circuit Court judge and the Michigan Supreme Court both found that she failed to exercise reasonable professional judgment in her defense. She did not conduct any independent investigation or interview any witnesses. She waived the preliminary examination which would have given her the opportunity to attack and defend the case. She did not file any pre-trial motions, did not consult or seek to have the court pay for an expert witness. Most importantly, she failed to evaluate and develop the defense that the victim’s mother, who testified against him, hated the defendant. Additionally, the attorney chose to have the judge decide the case instead of a jury of 12 people. As a direct result of the attorney’s actions, and more importantly, her non-actions, Jacob was convicted and sentenced to 4-15 years in prison. He was recently released after serving 7. Thankfully, on December 21, 2012 the Michigan Supreme Court recognized the Constitutionally Ineffective Assistance of Counsel and ordered a new trial.
I do not believe that all court appointed attorneys fail their client’s this poorly. Many do a good job and many do a fair job. This is an example of the many types of ways they often times cut corners. They do not get paid to file motions, hold a preliminary examination or go interview witnesses therefore, many do not perform these often necessary services. Further, to hold a bench trial before the worst judge on the bench at that time instead of a jury trial makes no sense except because it is easier and takes less time. That is not how justice should prevail in our criminal justice system but it happens too often. This man spent seven years of his life in prison, lost his million dollar home and probably the respect of his friends and family not to mention being a convicted felon who has to report that he is a sex offender which becomes public knowledge. As many of the News comments stated “You get what you pay for”
If you, or a loved one, have been charged with a crime, no matter how serious, call the Law Office of Barton Morris at (248) 541-2600. I promise to do everything possible to get the best outcome.
Attorney Morris has enjoyed a very successful and distinguished career as a trial lawyer providing high quality legal representation in the area of state and federal criminal defense for 20 years. He is known for his trial preparation by fellow attorneys, judges and clients alike. As a trial attorney, he is dedicated to attaining justice in every case, and is prepared to take on complex legal issues with success. Barton and his law firm pride themselves on obtaining results for their clients that other attorneys cannot.
Not only does Barton Morris have extensive experience, he also engages in continuing legal education to provide the highest quality legal services. Barton has received specialized scientific training through the American Chemical Society. He attended the prestigious Trial Lawyers College and serves on its Alumni Association Board of Directors. Barton Morris is also a board member of several distinguished legal associations including the Michigan Association of OWI Attorneys, and the DUI Defense Lawyer’s Association Justice Foundation. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys and has also graduated from their National Criminal Defense Trial College in Macon, Georgia.
Barton Morris was chosen as a Top Lawyer of Metro Detroit for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019 and 2020 for DUI/DWI and criminal defense by DBusiness Magazine and Hour Magazine. Barton Morris was also chosen as a Super Lawyer in Criminal Defense for 2014-2020 and Barton Morris is the only Lawyer in Michigan designated by the American Chemical Society as a “Forensic Lawyer-Scientist”