Originally posted by hotpinkurinalmint
reply to post by Jean Paul Zodeaux
I am not trying to say that all online legal forms are bad for everybody, but many people might be better off getting a lawyer. Online legal forms are great if you know what you need and you know what your are doing, unfortunately many people that get the forms do not know what they need and do not know what they are doing.
It's scary how attractive and user-friendly these websites are.
LegalZoom was developed by expert attorneys with experience at the most prestigious law firms in the country.
Originally posted by hotpinkurinalmint
reply to post by Tharsis
What that particular lawyer did may not have been legal. Lawyers cannot charge unreasonable fees. I do not know exactly what the lawyer did to "earn" his $3000, but it is possible that he might have charged you an unreasonable fee. If you have reason to believe the fee was unreasonable, you should report him to the bar.
If he spent a few hours on your case, his fee may have been reasonable. If he spent less than an hour on your case, his fee may not have been reasonable.
However, people get wronged by lawyers practicing below the standard of care all the time. It does no good for these people to tell them, "do not worry if Lawyer X screwed you over because the marketplace will eventually catch up to Lawyer X." It does no good for future clients of Layer X to tell them "Lawyer X screwed someone else over last month and we know about it, but don't worry, the market will soon catch up."
Matters only become worse when a person is represented by an ineffective, incompetent or overburdened defense lawyer. The failure of overworked lawyers to investigate, call witnesses or prepare for trial has led to the conviction of innocent people. When a defense lawyer doesn't do his or her job, the defendant suffers. Shrinking funding and access to resources for public defenders and court-appointed attorneys is only making the problem worse.
Asleep on the job A review of convictions overturned by DNA testing reveals a trail of sleeping, drunk, incompetent and overburdened defense attorneys, at the trial level and on appeal. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Innocent defendants are convicted or plead guilty in this country with less than adequate defense representation. In the some of the worst cases, lawyers have:
* slept in the courtroom during trial
* been disbarred shortly after finishing a death penalty case
* failed to investigate alibis
* failed to call or consult experts on forensic issues
* failed to show up for hearings
The exoneration and release of Jimmy Ray Bromgard from Montana prison provides a sobering view of the effects of inadequate or incompetent counsel. Bromgard, arrested when he was 18, spent 15 years in prison for the brutal rape of an eight-year-old girl, a crime post-conviction DNA testing proved he did not commit. Bromgard's trial attorney performed no investigation, filed no pre-trial motions, gave no opening statement, did not prepare for closing arguments, failed to file an appeal, and provided no expert to refute the fraudulent testimony of the state's hair microscopy expert. Other than the forensic testimony and the tentative identification, there was no evidence against Bromgard.
Attorney incompetence is the top reason cited when federal appeals judges overturn death sentences in Ohio, the state with the nation’s second-busiest execution chamber, a review of court rulings shows.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati blamed ineffective counsel 61 percent of the time, or 13 of the 21 death sentences it has overturned since 1981, the year Ohio’s new capital punishment law took effect, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.
"We conclude that defense counsel's performance before and during the guilt phase of the trial was marked by numerous deficiencies," George wrote for a unanimous court, "and that the cumulative impact of counsel's shortcomings at that phase of the proceedings was prejudicial with regard to the judgment of guilt."
O doubt most judges, police officers, and prosecutors are committed to the principle that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. The single greatest threat to an innocent defendant, however, may be his or her own attorney. In Illinois, Gary Gauger was sentenced to die in 1994 for murdering his parents, after his well-paid attorneys failed to conduct a serious investigation into the prosecution's paper-thin case. Eventually Gauger was released and members of a Wisconsin motorcycle gang were indicted for the crime.
Asked if they would favor a judicial system in which only the prosecution could present its case, most Americans would presumably be aghast. But in many courtrooms such ex parte proceedings are, for all intents and purposes, what happens. The adversary system simply doesn't exist. Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science found that a major cause of wrongful convictions was incompetent attorneys who neglected to examine the prosecution's forensic evidence or failed to have it tested. Nancy Gist, the director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, which dispenses $1.7 billion a year to state and local criminal-justice systems, has described the quality of counsel in capital cases as "mostly abysmal." One innocent man spent eleven years on Georgia's death row because his lawyer failed to have a vital piece of evidence analyzed by a laboratory. In Kentucky an investigation by the Department of Public Advocacy found that 25 percent of death-row inmates had been represented at trial by attorneys who had since been disbarred or had resigned to avoid disbarment. A 1990 study found that 13 percent of the defendants executed in Louisiana had been represented by lawyers who had been disciplined, a rate sixty-eight times as great as that for the state bar as a whole. The pervasive inadequacy of defense counsel in capital cases was a major reason that the American Bar Association's House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a 1997 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions. "In case after case," a report accompanying the resolution stated, "decisions about who will die and who will live turn not on the nature of the offense the defendant is charged with committing, but rather on the nature of the legal representation the defendant receives."
If a hospital assigned a cosmetic surgeon to perform a heart-bypass operation, the hospital would be held accountable when the patient died. But when states make a practice of appointing cosmetic attorneys to defend indigents, they declare that justice has been served, regardless of the outcome. Astonishingly, the Supreme Court has endorsed that position, ruling that jurisdictions appointing incompetent attorneys bear virtually no responsibility for the miscarriages that occur. "The government is not responsible for, and hence not able to prevent, attorney errors," the Supreme Court ruled in 1984 in Strickland v. Washington. Who, then, is responsible? According to the Supreme Court, apparently, the defendant is responsible. Under its landmark ruling state courts have typically found no violation of the Sixth Amendment, which guarantees the assistance of counsel in all criminal prosecutions, even when lawyers have been addicted to heroin or coc aine during a trial, have come to court drunk, have conducted no investigation of their clients' claims, or have been unable to cite a single relevant capital case. In one death-penalty case a lawyer presented no evidence during the penalty phase of a trial and made the following closing argument (quoted in its entirety): "You are an extremely intelligent jury. You've got that man's life in your hands. You can take it or not. That's all I have to say." The defendant was executed. In a Texas case in which the defense lawyer slept through most of his client's trial, the judge found no denial of due process. "The right to be heard," the Supreme Court ruled in 1932, in the famous Scottsboro Boys case, "would be, in many cases, of little avail if it did not comprehend the right to be heard by counsel." But the Texas court didn't think it essential that defense counsel hear the case, or even be conscious: "The Constitution doesn't say the lawyer has to be awake," the judge ruled.
In these situations, the Bar is supposed to step in and protect people from lawyers who are providing services that fall below the standard of care. When it comes to online legal service providers, it is possible that under certain circumstances the services they provide are below the standard of care.
The legal profession has, after all, produced reams of ethical and professional standards to guide lawyers, but they are widely ignored and largely unenforced or unenforceable, and the justices of the Supreme Court know this better than anyone. In 1989 the American Bar Association approved "Guidelines for the Appointment and Performance of Counsel in Death Penalty Cases," which set rigorous standards. Invaluable though these guidelines may be in establishing goals for state and local governments, they remain purely hortatory and are rarely put into practice. The ABA's "Rules of Professional Conduct" require attorneys to communicate adequately and promptly with their clients, and forbid conflicts of interest. The ABA's "Model Rules" include a pie-in-the-sky provision that stipulates, "Every lawyer, regardless of professional prominence or professional workload, has a responsibility to provide legal services to those unable to pay." Yet in a country with a million lawyers more than 200 condemned prisoners await execution without counsel, and thousands of indigents accused of crimes are processed through the courts each year with only the barest semblance of counsel. Naturally, the ABA also has standards regarding ability ("A lawyer shall not handle a legal matter which he knows or should know that he is not competent to handle"), but lawyers routinely handle matters they know little or nothing about with the full complicity of the courts -- often with grave consequences to their clients and not a whimper from the state or local bar. The world would truly be a better place if all good people heeded the wisdom of the bar's sage oracles, but they don't. Justice Thurgood Marshall knew they wouldn't when he wrote in his dissent to Strickland, "To tell lawyers and the lower courts that counsel for a criminal defendant must behave ... like 'a reasonably competent attorney,' is to tell them almost nothing."
The predicament of an innocent defendant represented by an incompetent lawyer has been further complicated by Supreme Court rulings on what is known as "procedural default," which effectively punishes the client for his lawyer's incompetence or stupidity. In practice, procedural default sets up a classic Catch-22 situation. An indigent defendant is assigned a lawyer who fails to investigate the case properly, puts on a perfunctory defense, ignores exculpatory evidence, and collects his fee, while his client goes to prison. When the defendant, now a convicted felon, tries to have the exculpatory evidence raised on appeal, it is barred by the court, which announces that it should have been presented by counsel at the initial trial. Meanwhile, any claim against the lawyer is conveniently excused, thanks to Strickland.
In one of its most controversial procedural-default rulings the Supreme Court allowed Roger Coleman to be executed in Virginia after finding that he had no right to present in court what he claimed was evidence of innocence, because his attorney had missed a filing deadline by three days. In a ruling that seemed to give process precedence over life and liberty, the Court concluded that Coleman "must bear the risk of attorney error that results in a procedural default." Justice O'Connor wrote one of the more astounding death-penalty decisions in recent memory: "This is a case about federalism. It concerns the respect that federal courts owe the States and the States' procedural rules when reviewing the claims of state prisoners in federal habeas corpus" claims -- habeas being the procedure that allows prisoners to petition state and federal courts to determine whether a sentence violates the laws or the Constitution of the United States. A 6-3 majority of the Court appeared to be saying that state procedures were more important than Coleman's claim of innocence, and the defendant was executed. Justice Blackmun called the execution "an affront to principles of fundamental fairness," adding, "The more the Court constrains the federal courts' power to reach the constitutional claims of those sentenced to death, the more the Court undermines the very legitimacy of capital punishment itself."
Not only has the Supreme Court given its seal of approval to incompetent counsel; in some capital cases it has even sanctioned a lack of any counsel whatsoever. Coleman's execution was justified by the Court in part on the basis of another precedent-setting Virginia case, Murray v. Giarratano, in which the Court ruled that a capital defendant is not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer in a post-conviction proceeding. Citing Giarratano, the Court ruled that because Coleman had no right to counsel, he had no basis on which to make a claim of ineffective counsel. But why would the Supreme Court under any circumstances conclude that a person facing the ultimate sanction did not need an attorney -- particularly since federal law does recognize a right to counsel in post-conviction proceedings? Because, the Court reasoned, a state "may quite sensibly decide to concentrate the resources it devotes to providing attorneys for capital defendants at the trial and appellate stages of a capital proceeding." This sounds reasonable enough. But the Court's abstract rationale bears no relation to reality. Had the justices bothered to examine what resources Virginia was actually devoting to trials and appeals, they would have found that the state has one of the worst records on indigent defense anywhere in the nation, and routinely ignores the needs of the poor at both the trial and appellate stages.
In a decision issued Wednesday, January 7, 2009, the Attorney General declared that henceforth, immigrants, asylum seekers, and all others in removal (deportation) proceedings do not have any right under statute or the Constitution to representation by a lawyer before they can be ordered deported. This ruling reverses many years of precedent. According to the Attorney General, because there is no legal or constitutional right to a lawyer, immigrants do not have the right to legal counsel and thus no right to complain or request a new hearing when their lawyer is incompetent or fraudulent except in highly extreme cases. In view of the Republicans' recent failure to recapture the White House, a question arises as to whether the Attorney General (who serves "at the pleasure of the President") even had the moral authority to render such a decision at this time.
Originally posted by hotpinkurinalmint
reply to post by seataka
The ABA is not a legislative body. It is a trade association that happens to be made up of lawyers.
The ABA may influence legislation, like other trade associations influence legislation. Its level of influence, along with the level of influence other trade associations and lobbying groups have, may be harmful to the country. It does not, however, directly write legislation.
If the ABA is unconstitutional, could you please tell me what constitutional provision they are violating.