Houston Board Certified Juvenile Attorney Jim Sullivan supports the Public Defenders Office in representing indigent juveniles in Harris County in all three juvenile district courts. Currently, the PDO operates in only two of the three juvenile courts–313th and 315th district courts.
Juveniles are our future and deserve the best representation available. If a juvenile does not feel he received a fair shake in the juvenile system, he may grow disillusioned with the justice system and graduate to the adult criminal system.
The Houston Chronicle published an article yesterday detailing the cronyism in the local system of court-appointed attorneys in an article entitled “A public defender needs no cronies” by Patricia Kilday Hart.
According to veteran and highly regarded defense attorney George Secrest, who sits on the board overseeing the Public Defenders’ Office, the current system is rife with cronyism. To keep receiving court appointments, attorneys feel pressure to move cases expeditiously. Demanding a trial gums up the criminal justice machine. Judges like attorneys who help them get cases off their dockets.
“You need to flip your cases,” Secrest told Hart. Otherwise, “the judges will stop giving you appointments.”
Houston Juvenile Lawyer Jim Sullivan believes that the representation of the poor and indigent is a noble calling, that attorneys with the heart to represent the poor are doing it for the common good and not to enrich themselves. Sullivan firmly believes that the poor deserve the same level of representation as the wealthy but seldom receive it.
This Houston Chronicle article points out that a former chairman of the local Republican Party received $372,000 in legal fees from court-appointed cases in 2011. This is 3 times the amount of the average experienced public defender and is almost the same salary as the President of the United States who receives $400,000!