A Word Of Thanks For A Job Well Done

I am lightning quick to toss a dart when something offends. Often, I am too slow with a word of praise for something well done. Indeed, sometimes my fingers freeze in midair when suspended over the keyboard as I contemplate noting something worth praising. Generosity of spirit it something I must work at.

Not so today. Today I simply want to call attention to the fact that the Connecticut Public Defender's office is doing a spectacular job of processing payment requests for those who work as Special Public Defenders. I am so surprised by this that I may well once again work on a regular basis as a special -- if they will have me.

I tried a capital felony earlier in the year as a Special Public Defender. The client requested that I appear on his behalf. The case was challenging, so I agreed. Before you knew it, I was once again on the state's payroll, or so I hoped.

Over the years, I have had a great deal of trouble getting paid for the work I did either on the federal Criminal Justice Act panel or as a state Special Public Defender. For many years, I simply did not submit vouchers. The hassles and delays associated with getting paid made the aggravation seem like an insult. Much though I love criminal defense work, begging to get paid, or learning to jump through all the asinine hoops of some bureaucratic play scape infuriate me. I quit the CJA panel in a huff a few years ago, and had not served as a special for the state for some time. Working at a discounted rate isn't exactly fun; must I be browbeaten in the process?

This year I am not in a position to do much work for free. It is a sad commentary on a difficult economy. Every dollar counts. So I submitted a voucher for payment in the capital felony. I was paid part of the request promptly; inevitable errors on my part required that I resubmit another part. I called the office to wonder what now I had done wrong. I was defeated before I called. But the response I got from the lawyer in charge of the division was polite, responsive and encouraging. I was told what to do to get paid. I did it. The check promptly arrived.

I am stunned, quite frankly. For many years, the system seemed broken. It scared me away. I see things have changed, and I am relieved.

I hope I will be appointed by the state again, but, please, folks, save the really hard and difficult cases for me. I prefer it that way.  As for the federal panel, I threw away the letter from some hot shot in Washington asking for more details on my complaints. I'm not sure I'm yet prepared for another role in the hay with Uncle Sam. But ...


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