With over 3,000 court-appointed lawyers in the state, the Massachusetts Association of Court Appointed Attorneys (MACAA) is working hard to give them a voice and advocate on behalf of their needs.
Members of the group that was founded in 2005 met Saturday to discuss common struggles among attorneys such as audits, billing and recertification issues, unnecessary bookkeeping such as logging bathroom breaks, and new restrictions of eight-hour work days, despite needing additional hours to prepare for court the next day.
They plan to meet with members of the Committee of Public Counsel Services (CPCS), specifically chief Anthony Benedetti, to address these ongoing concerns.
“Let’s fix the pettiness,” said attorney , newly appointed treasurer.
According to attorney Mark Hare, former MACAA president, their mission is to advocate on behalf court appointed lawyers to assure that they are adequately compensated, and that clients get the benefit of court appointed representation.
“We continue to be a strong voice to the sixth Amendment of the Constitution, the Right to Counsel,” Hare said. “There are far reaching issues that we continue to advocate for.”
Association members said they disapprove of Gov. Deval Patrick’s original plan to cut back on full time public defenders in the state. They worry that if this plan is continued it would eventually increase costs to the state.
“Once you factor in pensions, overhead and benefits, there’s no way it’s cheaper,” said attorney Marie Saccoccio, MACAA clerk.
“You don’t want to save pennies up front and then have a massive scandal,” added Russell Matson, a defense attorney.
Drug Lab Scandal Looms Large
Attorney Guy LaRock, the newly appointed president of MACAA, said the association is also focusing on drug-related cases that will be reviewed following a massive scandal where former scientist Annie Dookhan was accused of tampering with drug samples, involving 34,000 defendants during her nine years at the former Hinton State Laboratory Institute in Boston. These cases will require an increase of staff including judges, probation officers, assistant probation officers, and assistant court magistrates. Hare said the MACAA will assure that court appointed attorneys will not be blamed for these increased costs.
“It’s going to be astronomical, unknown, an open checkbook,” Hare said. “We can go on and on as to what it’s going to cost the Commonwealth.” This will include potentially massive civil suits.
“Guys have been in jail ten years, what’s that worth to them?” added Rioux.
Right now, many court appointed attorneys are already being inundated with cases being kicked back because of the tainted evidence used to convict them. There is a real concern that just cleaning up these cases could absorb much of the 1650 hours/year limit allowed to CPCS attorneys.
To become involved or for more information, visit www.macaa.biz.
By Mikaela Slaney, staff writer for DrugPossessionLaws.com