May 28, 2016 In praise of dedicated public defender lawyers
They all were great inspirations to me during my five years as a Maryland public defender lawyer, and beyond, starting in 1991. To become an effective criminal defense lawyer, one needs excellent experience. Public defender work and prosecutorial work are good places to start for such experience. As I could not stomach the idea of prosecuting, public defender was the avenue for starting my criminal law career.
Recently, I called the Alexandria, Virginia, federal public defender’s office to ask a question of the duty lawyer there on a matter that a public defender lawyer would best know. I was connected to lawyer Kenneth Troccoli, His views were on the money, and I got a sense that he had been in this business awhile. Sure enough, he graduated from law school five years before I, worked in white collar criminal defense for a few years, became a state-level public defender lawyer in Alexandria City, Virginia, and joined the Alexandria, Virginia federal public defender’s office in 2001, including joining Zacarias Moussaoui’s defense team. He worked long hours on the case for several years
Both times I spoke with Ken, he did nothing to communicate his impressive resume.. This was in line with his confirmation in 2006 that: ‘‘The nature of public defender work is to work in anonymity. No public defender becomes a public defender for fame, glory or fortune. Those are other lawyers. Public defenders do it because they are dedicated to a mission of helping the poor in obscurity.”
One of the biggest things I miss about my public defender days is defending indigent people while leveling the playing field against the prosecution. What I do not miss is the bureaucracy of it all. I was made to be my own boss.
Ken Troccoli’s comment about working in anonymity underlines the importance of all lawyers and everyone else to shed their egos, which are but barriers to doing great work.
Deeply thanking and bowing to Ken Troccoli and all other public defender and court appointed lawyers who pour their blood, sweat and tears into defending their indigent criminal defense clients.