Ed Shaw Law
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October 2016 Archives

You Get What You Pay For

You get what you pay for; It is an old saying but still true. Sometimes inexpensive means a bargain, and sometimes is just means cheap. I have written before about clients paying too much for some criminal defense attorneys. These are usually the ones who bill themselves as metro hotshots with fancy cars, slick offices, custom tailored suits. They spend a lot of money maintaining an image, and pass the costs on to their clients. One can also go too far in the other direction. Some of the fees I hear quoted for criminal work are amazingly low, so low that the attorneys involved are either losing money on them, or are doing almost no work for their clients. Handling a criminal case is not just a quick meeting with the prosecutor and striking a deal. While most cases settle based on an agreement, there is a huge amount of work that goes into getting a good deal for your client. Information is obtained from the prosecution, reviewed, discussed with the client, legal issues are researched, in some cases independent investigations are conducted. In many cases pre-trial motions are filed and argued, pre-trial motion work can take months and involve multiple hearings. If an attorney is willing to take on criminal work at a loss, more power to them. In most cases, low fees mean the attorney is not planning to put much into the case. If all you can afford is a low fee, that is better than nothing. Even a misdemeanor criminal case, if handled the wrong way can have long term negative consequences. If you are dealing with a felony the wrong move can send you to prison. If you do go low budget make sure to bank the money you save, there is a good chance you will need it for your prison commissary account, phone cards and snacks get expensive.

Guardian ad litem: Weak link in family law cases?

I have written before about the serious problems with the guardian ad litem program in this area. For those of you who have not worked with a guardian, their job, in a nutshell is to investigate child custody or visitation dispute and make a recommendation to the court about where a child should live, and how often they should see their parents. The City Pages, a newspaper out of the twin cities ran a story about the need for major reforms to the Guardian ad Litem program, focusing on the metro area. Unfortunately, most of the problems identified in the story exist here to. Guardians are inadequately trained, they are only required to complete a 40 hour program, they are rarely held accountable, there is no independent authority where complaints can be made, and judges usually follow the recommendation of the guardian. No one wants to make custody decisions in contested cases, it is easy for the court system to defer the decision making to guardians in most cases. The problem is that guardians, despite having good intentions in most cases, are frankly not qualified to make many of the recommendations that they make. The court system needs to either make significant improvements to the guardian program to make it able to do the job it is given, or stop relying on it. Entrusting the most important job in the legal system to people who are often not qualified to do it as we are doing now is the worst case scenario.

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