Interviewer: We haven’t talked in detail about public defenders. I’m sure that some people think that a public defender is free and they will completely take case of the case. Is it a good idea to have a public defender versus a private lawyer?
You Must Qualify for a Public Defender
Carl: Well, in the state of New Jersey, in order to get a public defender there’s two things that you have to know. One is that you have to apply for a public defender. You have to be qualified.
The other thing that a lot of people don’t know about the application fee for public defender in the state of New Jersey. Depending on the court, it’s either $100 or $200. Hiring a private attorney, while it’s not going to cost you only $100 or $200, might not be as far out of reach financially as you might think.
As far as a public defender versus a private attorney, a lot of public defenders certainly are excellent advocates. There’s no question about it. The question really is are they going to return your phone calls or texts or e-mails in a timely manner? Are they overworked? Do they know their cases?
A Private Attorney Knows the Details About Your Case
I know my clients as people. I know their case and I remember the details so when they call, text, or e-mail I respond to it as quickly as I can. I take ownership of my responsibilities and my representation. I’m not sure that a public defender is going to do the same.
Are Public Defenders Overworked?
Interviewer: Well I’ve heard they have pretty heavy caseloads. Is that true?
Carl: I guess it depends on the municipality, and it depends on what else they’re working on. So, they might have a very heavy caseload, certainly.
Interviewer: Well, I guess the difference is when someone calls you and his or her name is Frank, you know who Frank is. This is opposed to the public defender that may be unfamiliar with both your name and your case. You are much more acquainted with them because you’re dealing with them so intimately for so long.
Carl: Exactly. Remember I’ve done a comprehensive intake already. I’ve learned about them. I might not memorize their date of birth, but I have become very well acquainted with them over the course of the intake, and I know their case.
By Carl Spector