Friday, September 5, 2008

I can't afford a lawyer...

I once I had a client who told me that money buys justice. I don't know if I agree with that statement completely but there is a certain amount of truth to it that can't be denied. In Maine we are dealing with a court appointed system that is completely broken and will need a complete overhaul if we are to catch up to other states with respect to equal and quality representation.

Maine is flat broke. As a result, the professional services the courts are willing to pay for are extremely limited. When courts make judgment calls about whether or not a defendant is entitled to an expert witness in his case based solely on the financial state of affairs, something is fundamentally wrong with our system. Let me be the first to say I don't want to plow my field with the State's mule (ie, the State's expert chemist)! Why you ask? Because he's the State's expert... that's why. No matter how many judges will say "but Mr. Bly, he's testified for both the State and the defense", I can't believe he is completely impartial and unbiased.

The truth of the matter is this: if you can afford the best experts and the best lawyers, your chances of having a successful outcome in your case are greatly enhanced. Now understand, it's not a guarantee that you'll win. But it is a guarantee that your chances of winning are increased. Let's look at OJ Simpson for a minute. How much $$$ do you think he spent on that legal team? Not only did OJ throw a truckload of cash at his lawyers, but he got the best scientific experts involved for DNA analysis and blood spatter evidence (amongst many other issues). In addition, he had the resources to get a crack team of investigators to put a nail in Mark Furman's coffin and exposed his racist motivations to lie and manufacture evidence. In the end, the resources OJ was able to marshall made a big difference in his case... he was found not guilty. Could OJ have won with a public defender? Maybe... but definitely not without all of the other resources at his legal team's disposal.

While there are many, many top notch attorneys who work on a court appointed basis, their hands are tied when it comes to getting the best experts involved. That's because Maine's court appointed system is tied solely to money. While it is not fair (and many of us believe it may even be unconstitutional), it is the way it is here in Maine. So to the extent that money buys justice, I disagree. Instead, money buys a better defense because money buys resources. Plain and simple.

Now I know many people out there read this blog. I know many defense attorneys read it. Prosecutors read my blog. Even judges read this blog. Some of you may be offended by what I wrote. That's fine. You also know deep down inside that what I'm saying is true and that our system is in desperate need of a top to bottom overhaul. I honestly believe that this is one of the very few problems that you can actually throw money at and see an immediate improvement as a result.

William T. Bly, Esq.
Maine OUI Lawyer