Monday, November 5, 2012

Seven Steps to Effective Plea Bargaining

From nearly 25 years defending the accused in state and federal courts, here's what makes a lawyer a good plea negotiator:

1.  Prepare the case for trial.  Nothing convinces a prosecutor like knowing the defense is ready, willing and able to go to trial (and appeals) and possibly prevail.
2.  Try/appeal cases.  Trying cases keeps lawyers sharp.  It confirms to prosecutors you can and will try cases.  Appealing if and when you lose does the same (and often results in favorable decisions).
3.  Charge hourly.  A lawyer should get paid for the work she does on a case.  Charging on an hourly basis is usually fairest, and helps spread any financial burden over time.  Saavy prosecutors suspect that defendants may be reluctant or unable to come up with a larger so-called trial fee under typical "flat fee" arrangements. 
4.  Put it in writing.  Memorialize discussions with prosecutors via email or letters to them (copy to client).  If it ain't in writing; it ain't.
5.  Criminal defense is a stud poker game; play accordingly.  "Winning" is less about the cards you're dealt (which cannot be changed) than in when you play them, how, with whom, and what is at stake.
6.  Carefully consider every communication.  Everything that is said or written, when and how, affects the outcome.
7.  Keep the client well informed.  It is their case, and their future.  They deserve to know what is going on.  Their perspective and input are invaluable.

By far most criminal cases are plea bargained.  The lawyer who gets a good plea for his client - quietly, efficiently, effectively - is a winner.

A Step Towards Ending Cheating in Sports

In follow-up to the 9/13/12 post about how to end cheating in sports by suing offending athletes and their enablers, a news report today describes an intriguing lawsuit: 

Apparently an Australian sportswear company called Skins is suing cycling's governing body for $2 million, claiming its brand has been harmed by backing the sport of cycling as the Lance Armstrong so-called doping scandal unraveled (Longmont Times-Call at p. B2).  The lawsuit in effect seemingly alleges that cycling officials knew (or should have known) of Mr. Armstrong's ongoing cheating and/or did nothing to stop it, thereby damaging Skins' reputation.

Question whether Skins did (or will) sue Mr. Armstrong himself, and whether the governing body has a claim against him for any liability it may have.