The Boston Globe reported today that the scheduled joint boycott by assigned counsel for indigent defendants is “expected to cause havoc on Monday, when district courts tend to be busiest with arraignments of people arrested over the weekend for fights and drinking-related offenses.” (“Public Defenders Protest Pay Lack,” by Kathleen Burge, Aug. 16, 2003) The article quotes William J. Leahy, chief counsel for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, which contracts with the private lawyers (emphasis added):
“Monday is going to be a dismal day, not just in the courts but in the provision of the right to counsel in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. . . . It’s going to be a distressful and embarrassing day.”
The Globe story also focused on Randy Gioia, co-chair of Suffolk County Lawyers for Justice, which announced the refusal of its members to accept cases last Thursday. Gioia dismissed reports that the Legislature would act next week to pass a supplemental budget, saying that his group of lawyers are “demoralized” and that the indigent defendant will be hurt in the end by the low priority given to this issue in the Legislature.
The joint boycott statement by SLJ ends attempts by Massachusetts Bar Advocates to make their refusal to take cases appear to be the result of individual decisions by each lawyer. As private practitioners, the bar advocates have no right under antitrust law to strike, because they are independent competitors separately providing legal services. ethicalEsq? has covered the struggle of Massachusetts “bar advocates” to recover pay for Fiscal ’03 and to receive higher compensation, in several postings, including one yesterday, Aug. 15, 2003.
Thanks to eLawyer Blog for mentioning ethicalEsq? in two postings this weekend. With its heavy-hitter line-up of Commentators, I expect the new blog — which focuses on the “better delivery of legal services through the internet” — will be getting a lot of traffic.