Crimlaw around the web

Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout the SCOTUS decision to gut the knock and announce requirement for police searches of your home when they have a warrant. The case is Hudson v. Michigan (see summary here) and, although its precise holding appears to be unclear, there’s little doubt this will make cops much less concerned about knocking, announcing their presence, and waiting a reasonable time for you to open your door if they have a warrant to search your home. Instead, they’ll be much more likely to just shout “police” and break your door down. Professor Kerr has a lot more to say about the case today.

See what happens when you replace a centrist Sandra Day O’Connor with a conservative Samuel Alito?

In other (more positive) crimlaw reading, Dan Filler recently wrote a great explanation of the special value of public defenders. ((This is part of a series Filler is writing in response to a recent ABA study of the Alabama indigent defense system. See also: “Death Penalty Moratorium In Alabama? ABA Study Says Yes,” “Death In Alabama: The Problem of Indigent Defense,” and “The Problem of Jury Override in Capital Cases.”)) His piece is worth reading in its entirety, but to summarize, he argues that public defenders provide better indigent criminal defense than court-appointed or contract systems for four main reasons:

  1. Public defenders have more expertise because all they do is indigent criminal defense.
  2. Public defender offices raise the level of criminal defense practice throughout their jurisdictions by staying on top of new developments in the law and by modeling good advocacy practices for their private colleagues to copy and follow.
  3. Public defenders thereby raise expectations for other defense attorneys.
  4. Public defenders create and support a community where criminal defense is seen as virtuous and worthy of effort.

I think the most important of his arguments is that public defender offices concentrate expertise and raise the quality of the criminal defense bar as a whole. I’m certain that’s true, plus they provide a great training ground for making sure new criminal defenders will become good criminal defenders. Finally, one point he didn’t mention but which many states might find fairly compelling, is that public defender systems may end up being less expensive in dollar terms than competing systems. I’m not sure there’s good data on that either way, but I know many people are watching Montana to see if its conversion from ad-hoc, county-based indigent defense to a statewide system will produce any economies of scale in terms of cost.

Speaking of the Montana Public Defender system, the Great Falls Tribune is running another intro to the system in today’s edition. I’m sure short explanatory pieces like this are going to help convince the average Montanan that this change is going to be a good thing.

Finally, Mary Whisner, a law librarian at the University of Washington, recently pointed out a podcast about public defenders that looks like some good listening. One of these days… [tags]scotus, public defender, podcasts[/tags]

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