With the Governor’s proposal of LD 1433, more and more attention is being paid to the possibility of creating an Office of Pubic Defender here in Maine. H&H Law Center attorney Devens Hamlen worked in the New Hampshire office of public defender for more than eight years, and has this to say about benefits of New Hampshire’s system.
To see another blog post about LD 1433, check out: LD 1433 in Maine: How Did We Get Here?
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Here is a transcript of today’s video:
Public Defender Office in New Hampshire vs Maine
There’s been a lot of discussion especially amongst the defense bar here in Maine about the new public defender bill that has been proposed by the governor to try and fix a system in Maine that doesn’t have a public defender system. And I appreciate that it’s starting a conversation and the governor has said as much. Having come from being at a public defenders office one of the gold standard best funded public defenders system in the country for 8 1/2 years. Compare that to what is here in Maine now.
So when I was at the New Hampshire Public defenders, I had five weeks of training, 8 to 5 while carrying a smaller caseload of 25. After that I had a mentor for a year. I had a three-month review, a nine month review, a 12 month review, an 18 month review, and then a two and three year review. So basically they are really nurturing you for the first 2 to 3 years, because the learning curve is so steep. There is no way I could have start practicing criminal law by just hanging a shingle having graduated from Maine Law and going to a weekend training.
I didn’t have to worry about hourly rate. I didn’t have to worry about insurance. I didn’t have to worry about investigators. That allowed me to be a better attorney. That allowed me to focus on the cases that I had. It also allowed me obviously to take a high caseload. And I think that there is so much news that you hear about public defenders having 250 open cases. Greet and plead is sort of the reputation of the public defender. That they grab the file meet the client for five minutes and then and they say you have to plead out without knowing anything about the client, anything about their story, investigating any aspects of the case. You hear about those because they are the shocking ones. Because they stand out but that is not true across the board.
That’s not true about every public defenders office. It is not true that of what a public defenders office can do and what they can bring to a state. It is not what is true about what can be implemented in Maine. There’s plenty of amazing public defender offices across the country but I can say without reservation that I would hire any of the New Hampshire public defenders to defend my family in a heartbeat. They are some of the best most dedicated attorneys I know.