The Perilous Psychology of Public Defending

2015 Journal of the Professional Lawyer pp. 157-175

20 Pages Posted: 15 Nov 2015

See all articles by Scott Howe

Scott Howe

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law

Date Written: November 13, 2015

Abstract

This article examining the ethical challenges confronting most public defender attorneys is framed as a fictional talk presented by P.D. Atty, a former public defender attorney, at a small conference of new public defender attorneys. The presentation asserts that public defenders typically face psychological obstacles to providing zealous advocacy for all of their clients and that an essential aspect of the remedy starts with recognition of these psychological barriers. The author contends that these challenges relate to a typically unacknowledged aversion to representing certain kinds of criminal defendants. Contrary to common supposition, the strongest aversion is not to representation of certain guilty offenders, such as murderers or child molesters, but to representation of those who claim to be innocent and especially those who actually seem to be innocent, where a full-blown defense, through trial, would be expected to require an extraordinary commitment of time and effort from an overtaxed public defender.

Keywords: Public Defender, Public Defendant, Sixth Amendment, Right To Counsel, Zealous Defense

Suggested Citation

Howe, Scott, The Perilous Psychology of Public Defending (November 13, 2015). 2015 Journal of the Professional Lawyer pp. 157-175. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2690586

Scott Howe (Contact Author)

Chapman University, The Dale E. Fowler School of Law ( email )

One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States

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