Norman Park, GA asked in Criminal Law and Legal Malpractice for Texas

Q: What can I do about a bad lawyer?

I have had an assigned lawyer for 11 months. During that time she has been extremely uncommunicative, not answering any requests for info about my defense. Not confirming that she receives my calls or emails. She has not done anything in my defense to prepare for trial. Last week, prior to a hearing, I sent a letter to the judge explaining the situation and asking for a new attorney. He refused to give me a new attorney. The lawyer made promises to the judge and me that she would improve but she is again not answering my email, doing nothing and ignoring me. I can file a grievance but that's not going to get help with my defense. She is so bad that for the first five months she was my lawyer I didn't even know she was my lawyer, I found out by accident and contacted her. I know I can defend myself pro-se but that is not a good option. What can I do or fie etc. to make the judge pay attention and act accordingly and correctly?

1 Lawyer Answer
Kiele Linroth Pace
Kiele Linroth Pace
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Austin, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: It sounds like you have already taken the proper steps by documenting your communications and approaching the judge. Many court-appointed lawyers are overworked and underpaid. Client communications are time-consuming and are not always helpful to the attorney's preparation of a defense.

For example, if the charged offense is Injury to a Child, but the alleged victim's birthday is such that they do not meet the statutory definition of a child, then discussions regarding the defendant's version of events are not particularly relevant to the defense strategy. It is possible that your attorney has a great defense planned but just hasn't been able to make time to discuss it with you.

Although the courts do require criminal defense attorneys to develop a strategy, there is no requirement that it be the best strategy or, frankly, even a good strategy. Unfortunately, bad is good enough. Obviously, there are some cases where the attorney's understanding of the client's version of events is absolutely crucial to developing a defense strategy, but the courts typically give attorneys a lot of discretion to determine which cases are which. Appointed defense attorneys often don't make enough money from each case to invest much time in an activity that may not be necessary and often they don't even make enough money to hire enough office staff to serve as contact points for clients. The net result of all this is that client communication is one of the first things to suffer for court-appointed criminal defense attorneys.

This question is marked "Georgia" but it is posted in the Texas forum. If the case was filed in Georgia, you should try reposting your question under that state because there may be state-specific procedures that are not available in Texas. If the case is actually in Texas, you can ask your attorney to review all of the evidence obtained in the Discovery process. Your attorney is prohibited by law from giving you copies, but you are allowed to review it after the attorney redacts certain required personal details of other people mentioned in the documents. Then you could provide your attorney with your own recorded recollections of the incident in as much detail as you can manage. You can send this via email and at least your attorney will have it when developing her strategy, even if there isn't much communication about it.

If your financial circumstance change then you should consider hiring a better attorney. If you go this route, be aware that the cheapest attorneys are also overworked and underpaid, so you'll likely have the same problem with one of those. In fact, many of the cheap attorneys are the EXACT SAME ATTORNEYS who take court-appointed cases... so you can expect a similar dynamic to exist with them.

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