What to Know About Court-Appointed Lawyers

Happy Friday everybody. Hope you’re having a great week. Wanted to talk to you a little bit this week about court appointed attorneys.

Now court appointed attorneys sometimes get a pretty negative reputation. Most people think of what you see in a movie, the overworked public defender, who just doesn’t care anything about your case and is just looking to plea you out as quick as possible. Now, in some cases that might very well be true. That might be representative of the court appointed attorney that you have, or that you’ve been assigned. However, it’s not always the case.

So for example, we here at the Whalen Law Office, we take some appointments. We don’t do any court appointed work on the state side, but we do take appointed court cases on the federal side, from time to time. It’s our way of giving back and trying to help those people who can’t necessarily afford quality legal representation.

The first thing you need to know about court appointed attorneys is the same ethical rules, the same responsibility rules apply to them as applied to a retained attorney. What that means is the State Bar of Texas requires that they defend and they fight for you as zealously as they possibly can. They must have your best interest at heart. They must work hard for you. So just because you’re not the one paying them, just because they are being paid through funds that are deposited into the court, doesn’t mean that they’re allowed to just kind of skate on their responsibilities to you as a client. So keep that in mind.

The second thing that I want everybody to be aware of is when you get into a position where you have to ask the court for an appointed attorney and the court assigns one to you, instead of just thinking, well, it’s an appointed attorney, they’re not worth anything. I’m going to try to save some money and go hire my own. Do some research. Do some due diligence. Look that attorney up. Look at their website. Look at their online reviews. Look at if they’ve been disciplined or sanctioned by the bar. Go and meet them. Go and talk to them. Ask them questions. Just like you would, if you were looking to hire your own attorney, because you might find out that the attorney that was appointed to you is a very good, very high quality lawyer who doesn’t solely take appointed cases and is willing and able to fight for you and fight for your case.

So just because a court appointed lawyer is court appointed, does not necessarily mean that you should assume that they’re going to do a bad job. Most court appointed lists, most courts that do appoint lawyers, make sure that those lawyers who they are appointing are qualified to do the work that they’re appointing to them. So they are good lawyers. They are sound lawyers. They know what they’re doing nine times out of 10. So do some due diligence.

So again, when you’re in a situation, or somebody that you know is in a situation where a lawyer has been appointed to them, the worst thing that you can do is simply assume that that lawyer is not going to fight for them. It’s not going to do the work, is going to get lazy because, well, I mean, I’m not paying them any money, so they’re not going to care about my case. Do the due diligence and figure out the lawyer that you’ve been assigned. Figure out if you think it’s a good fit because the other thing to keep in mind is if you’ve been appointed a lawyer, simply asking the court, “Hey, I want a new one because I don’t like this guy,” is typically not enough. You have to have a very discrete, articulable reason for wanting a new lawyer. The only other option is for you to go hire a lawyer yourself.

So one thing that we try to do here at the Whalen Law office is anytime we get a consultation and somebody says, “Hey, I’ve been assigned or I’ve been appointed a lawyer this is their name,” we try to give you our honest assessment of, “Hey, that’s a lawyer we know we’ve worked with them before. They know what they’re doing. They do a good job.” Because we want you to be in good hands and we want what’s best for you as the client. And if that means you have quality representation, that’s not costing you any money, sometimes that’s in your best interest. So we don’t mind telling you if it’s a lawyer that we know, we’ve worked with, and we’ve trusted. Hey, I would probably stick with them because they know what they’re doing.

Likewise, if it’s somebody that we know and they have a reputation for something not necessarily as good, we’ll tell you that as well, because we want you to have all the information that we do so that you can make the best decision for you.

So again, court appointed lawyers, not always what they’re cracked up to be, not always what their reputation sounds like. They’re good lawyers. They want the best for you in most cases. So do your due diligence. Find out who’s representing you. Talk to them, interview them, ask them questions, and hopefully you can get some very quality representation at the expense of the court, rather than trying to sell off a bunch of assets to try to pay for it yourself.

Hope this helped. Again, if you have any questions, as always if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me, email call, drop by our website. Let me know what those are. I’d be happy to talk to you about them. Answer any questions you have and I look forward to seeing you all next week. Y’all stay safe.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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