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Friday, August 17, 2007

A day with a public defender

I recently spent a day “shadowing” an Anoka County public defender, Jennifer Pradt, so that I could write an article for Minnesota Lawyer detailing the experience. It was an interesting, perhaps even “enlightening,” day. (Plus, anything that gets me out of the office and away from my computer for an entire day can't be bad!)

Contrary to the perception of many members of the general public, the clients Pradt met with that day weren’t bad people. They were all more or less regular folks who had been hauled into the criminal justice system because of some issue with chemical dependency (alcohol or drugs, often meth). They were all polite and most seemed quite appreciative of Pradt’s assistance.

Pradt told me a few days later that she too enjoyed the experience of having me follow her around for a day. She said it gave her a chance to think about why does the work she does. She was especially grateful that I didn’t bother with questions like, “How can you sleep at night?”

In fact, the question never even occurred to me. I have always had a healthy respect for Minnesota’s public defenders. During law school I considered it as a career choice myself before being steered toward the civil rights area instead. My experience spending a day with someone in the trenches of public defense has only enhanced my admiration for those who often face public scorn and derision for their valuable work. It’s a thankless job performed by lawyers who care about people and believe strongly that everyone is entitled to a good defense.

By the way, the article detailing my experiences shadowing Pradt will appear in the Aug. 27, 2007, edition of Minnesota Lawyer.

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